The first ever genetic analysis of mummies found that ancient Egyptian kings were more closely related to West Asians than Africans, according to a study published Tuesday by scientists at the Max Planck Institute.
The research found that ancient Egyptians were most closely related to Neolithic Levantine, Anatolian and European populations. The mummies tested did not share strong genetic links to Africa often found in modern Egyptians.
“This suggests that an increase in Sub-Saharan African gene flow into Egypt occurred within the last 1,500 years,” Wolfgang Haak, who led the research team, said in a statement.
“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,” Haak said.
It’s further evidence that ancient Egyptians were genetically different than modern day residents. Scientists largely agree that ancient Egyptians were indigenous to the Nile area, but a vocal minority of “Afrocentric” scholars claim that the area’s ancient population was entirely African.
Those scholars claim ancient Egyptians were similar to Sub-Saharan African cultures, arguing that famous Egyptian rulers, including Tutankhamun and Cleopatra, were more African than Caucasian.
Researchers analyzed ancient DNA from mummified Egyptians who lived from 1400 B.C. to 400 A.D., establishing that mummies can be a reliable source for genetic material to study the ancient past.
The study could open the door to further genetic testing of mummified remains. More than 151 individual mummies were examined during the research. Scientists recovered mitochondrial genomes from 90 individuals and genome-wide data sets from three individuals.
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