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What did Egyptian mummies look like in real life? Researchers use DNA data to reconstruct their faces

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Egypt is famous for its huge pyramids and ancient mummies buried there. The ancient process of mummification to preserve the body has long fascinated people all over the world. Researchers have now been able to reconstruct the faces of three people who lived in Egypt more than 2,000 years ago. Based on DNA data extracted from their mummified remains, researchers have created 3D models of the faces of the mummies that show how they appeared at the age of 25.

The mummies are from the ancient Egyptian city of Abusir el-Malek, south of present-day Cairo. Researchers believe he was buried between 1380 BC and 425 AD.

Researchers at Virginia-based DNA technology firm Parabon NanoLabs used forensic DNA phenotyping to create 3D models of the faces of the mummies. This procedure uses genetic analysis to predict facial features and other aspects of a person’s physical appearance.

To predict the men’s skin colour, pigmentation and ancestry, they used a phenotyping method called SNAPSHOT, NanoLabs said in a statement.

Using this method, scientists came to the conclusion that these men had lighter brown skin, darker eyes and hair — more similar to modern Egyptians than modern men in the Mediterranean or the Middle East, according to a report in Live Science.

The researchers then created 3D meshes outlining the facial features of the mummies. They computed heat maps to highlight the differences between the three men and refine the details of each face. Then, forensic artists from Parabon combined these results with Snapshot’s predictions about the facial features of individuals.

Describing the arduous process, Alain Gretek, ParaBone’s director of bioinformatics, said that working with ancient human DNA can be challenging for two reasons: DNA is often highly degraded, and it is usually associated with bacterial DNA. mixed with.

The DNA of three mummies was sequenced in 2017 at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.


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