The findings mark “the first time that complete DNA phenotyping has been performed on human DNA of this age.”said Dr. Ellen Greytak, Parabon’s Director of Bioinformatics in a statement.
Explaining the difficult process, the scientist said that working with ancient human DNA can be challenging for two reasons: the DNA is often highly degraded, and it is usually mixed with DNA from bacteria.
The samples of the mummies, whose antiquity is estimated between 2,023 and 2,797 yearswere processed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Tübingen in Germany, institutions that have worked together with the American company since 2017.
The trio of mummies were named JK2134, dating to 776-569 BC, JK2888, estimated to have lived around 97-2 BC, and JK2911, believed to have lived around 769-560 BC. The scientists took the data from the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA), before sequencing it and “aligning it with the reference human genome”. Enzymatic damage repair was then performed on each sample.
how was the process
To predict skin color, pigmentation, and ancestry in men, scientists used a phenotyping method called Snapshot. Using this method, the scientists concluded that the subjects’ complexion was light brown, with dark hair and eyes and no freckles.
Then the researchers generated 3D meshes that describe the facial features of the mummies. They calculated heat maps to highlight the differences between the three men and refine the details of each face. After that, Parabon’s forensic artist combined these results with Snapshot’s predictions about people’s facial features.