In large scale research efforts, scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Jena and the University of Tuebingen analyzed the DNA of 90 Egyptian mummies that were buried between 1,400 BCE and 400 CE. This study was undertaken to determine the genetic roots of the people living in Egypt during that time.
The analysis revealed that ancient Egyptians were closely related to the Middle Eastern population and were descendants of the region’s people. On the other hand, modern-day Egyptians descended from Sub-Saharan Africans.
DNA Examination Of Egyptian Mummies
To conduct the study, researchers examined 151 mummified human remains from the Abusir el-Meleq archaeological site, along the banks of the river Nile. However, the team recovered DNA samples from only 90 mummies. They started performing the genetic testing with these samples and arrived at a result, which was based on previous historical and archaeological data.
“In particular, we were interested in looking at changes and continuities in the genetic makeup of the ancient inhabitants of Abusir el-Meleq,” the study’s lead author Alexander Peltzer shared.
Scientists also tried to determine whether the conquest by Alexander the Great — and other foreign invasions during the time — somehow affected the ancient Egyptians’ genetic composition vis-à-vis their modern-day counterparts.
Early Egyptians Were Closely Related To Middle Easterners
The study concluded that the mummies from which the DNA samples were collected had a genetic link with the population of what is the present-day Jordan and Israel.
“The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300 year timespan we studied, suggesting that the population remained genetically relatively unaffected by foreign conquest and rule,” Max Planck Institute’s Wolfgang Haak remarked.
The modern-day Egyptians also shared 8 percent more ancestry with the Sub-Saharan Africans than they did with the early Egyptians. This observation let researchers to surmise that a large number of Africans possibly immigrated into Egypt roughly 1,500 years ago. This would explain the presence of African genetic components in today’s Egyptians.
The advancement of transportation systems also may have contributed to the gradual inflow of Africans into Egypt.
Till date, researchers have struggled to collect DNA samples from mummies, mainly due to the temperature in Egypt and also because of the use of certain chemicals during the embalming process. However, after this study, more research regarding mummy DNA and genetics may have to be undertaken.
The study’s results were published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, May 30.