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Thread: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

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    You are not wrong, who deem / That my days have been a dream Johannes de León's Avatar
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    Post Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    July 19, 2004 — Researchers may be able to make more accurate reconstructions of what ancient humans looked like with the first ever use of ancient DNA to determine hair and skin color from skeletal remains.

    The research was presented last week at an international ancient DNA conference in Brisbane, Australia, by German anthropologist, Diane Schmidt of the University of Göttingen.

    She said her research may also help to identify modern day murderers and their victims.



    DNA: Putting a Face on the Dead

    "Three thousand years ago, nobody was doing painting and there was no photography. We do not know what people looked like," Schmidt told ABC Science Online.
    She said most images in museums and books were derived from comparisons with living people from the same regions.

    "For example, when we make a reconstruction of people from Africa we think that they had dark skin or dark hair," she said. "But there's no real scientific information. It's just a guess. It's mostly imagination."

    She said this had meant, for example, that the reconstruction of Neanderthals had changed over time.

    "In the 1920s, the Neanderthals were reconstructed as wild people with dark hair and dumb, not really clever," she said. "Today, with the same fossil record, with the same bones and no other information — just a change in ideology — you see reconstructions of people with blue eyes and quite light skin color, looking intelligent and using tools.

    "Most of the reconstructions you see in museums are a thing of the imagination of the reconstructor. Our goal is to make this reconstruction less subjective and give them an objective basis with scientific data."

    In research for her recently completed PhD, Schmidt built on research from the fields of dermatology and skin cancer that have found genetic markers for traits such as skin and hair color in modern humans.

    In particular, Schmidt relied on the fact that different mutations (known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs) in the melanocortin receptor 1 gene are responsible for skin and hair color.

    "There is a set of SNPs that tells you that a person was a redhead and a different set of markers tell you they were fair skinned," she said.

    She extracted DNA from ancient human bones as old as 3,000 years old from three different locations in Germany and looked for these SNPs.

    Her findings suggest that red hair and fair skin was very uncommon among ancient Germans.

    Out of a total of 26 people analyzed, Schmidt found only one person with red hair and fair skin, a man from the Middle Ages. All the other people had more UV-tolerant skin that tans easily.

    She said she was excited when she "colored in" the faces that once covered the skulls, and had even developed "a kind of a personal relationship" with one of them.

    "It's not so anonymous," she said. "I think this is the reason why people in museums can do reconstruction because our ancestors are not so anonymous any more; they have a face you can look into."

    Unfortunately the genetic markers Schmidt used could not distinguish which of the ancient humans had blond versus black hair, and she could not determine eye color.

    But, she said she was confident that this will be possible in a few years.

    Schmidt said that such research could also be used to help build up identikit pictures to help identify skeletons or criminals.

    The research has been submitted for publication.
    .

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    Senior Member Stríbog's Avatar
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    Post Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    I think they should extract DNA from the human remains excavated at Herculanæum and Pompeii to get an idea of what the Roman aristocracy and slave classes looked like, and to get an idea of how both compare to modern Italians.

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    Member Awar's Avatar
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    Post Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    Can they find the eye-colour?

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    Post Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    Quote Originally Posted by Johannes de León
    Unfortunately the genetic markers Schmidt used could not distinguish which of the ancient humans had blond versus black hair, and she could not determine eye color.

    But, she said she was confident that this will be possible in a few years.
    "Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil." - F. Nietzsche

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    Post Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    Oops, missed that part. Thanks.
    If it really works, it's a nice improvement for archaeology.
    It can't hurt to know more.

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    Senior Member Scoob's Avatar
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    Post Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    Quote Originally Posted by AWAR
    Oops, missed that part. Thanks.
    If it really works, it's a nice improvement for archaeology.
    It can't hurt to know more.
    Maybe corporations can sponser research into genetic tests to determine whether ancient people would prefer Coke or Pepsi. Or we can finally resolve the question of whether Genghis Khan would go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

    [sarcasm]Ah, market-driven research. Once and for all, capitalism will triumph over the forces of Statism and bureaucratic stasis. The former Iraq can be re-named Haliburtonia. The dictators of the world will be supplanted by CEOs and stock market Freedom Fighters like George Soros. [/sarcasm]

    ahem ahem. What was this thread about???
    "Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil." - F. Nietzsche

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    Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    Quote Originally Posted by Scoob
    Maybe corporations can sponser research into genetic tests to determine whether ancient people would prefer Coke or Pepsi. Or we can finally resolve the question of whether Genghis Khan would go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

    [sarcasm]Ah, market-driven research. Once and for all, capitalism will triumph over the forces of Statism and bureaucratic stasis. The former Iraq can be re-named Haliburtonia. The dictators of the world will be supplanted by CEOs and stock market Freedom Fighters like George Soros. [/sarcasm]

    ahem ahem. What was this thread about???
    Taco bell, taco bell, product placement for Taco Beeeeeeeeell ( Kung Pow: Enter the Fist )

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    You are not wrong, who deem / That my days have been a dream Johannes de León's Avatar
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    Post Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    Quote Originally Posted by AWAR
    Taco bell, taco bell, product placement for Taco Beeeeeeeeell ( Kung Pow: Enter the Fist )
    Welcome to the Great Circle of... erm... Stuff, Chosimba!
    .

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    Post Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    Quote Originally Posted by article
    Her findings suggest that red hair and fair skin was very uncommon among ancient Germans.
    A rate of approximately 4% from this very small sample is close to the occurrence in modern Germanic populations.

    Quote Originally Posted by article
    Out of a total of 26 people analyzed, Schmidt found only one person with ... fair skin, a man from the Middle Ages. All the other people had more UV-tolerant skin that tans easily.
    This is ambiguous. Does she mean that their untanned skin was darker than "fair" or did she mean they had fair skin that was able to tan? If it's the latter, I don't see much divergence from ancient people regarding skin color among Germanics.
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    You are not wrong, who deem / That my days have been a dream Johannes de León's Avatar
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    Post Re: Ancient DNA Reveals Skin Color

    Quote Originally Posted by Louky
    This is ambiguous. Does she mean that their untanned skin was darker than "fair" or did she mean they had fair skin that was able to tan? If it's the latter, I don't see much divergence from ancient people regarding skin color among Germanics.
    According to the title of the original source, i think she means that their untanned skin was darker than fair.

    you can, however, use this to ask them: science.editor@your.abc.net.au

    also you can check the original article here.
    .

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