Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ancient Greenalnder's DNA surprises Scientists

Scientists received quite a surprise after they finished sequencing the DNA from frozen hairs of a Greenlander who died about 4,000 years ago. One of the goals was to find the origins of the Greenlander and see where his ancestry had come from.

Surprisingly, the man appears to have originated in Siberia and is unrelated to modern Greenlanders, Morten Rasmussen of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues found.

The DNA gives strong hints about the man, nicknamed Inuk. "Brown eyes, brown skin, he had shovel-form front teeth," Eske Willerslev, who oversaw the study, told a telephone briefing. Such teeth are characteristic of East Asian and Native American populations.

The man lived among the Saqqaq people, the earliest known culture in southern Greenland that lasted from around 2500 BC until about 800 BC. Scientists have disagreed on who these people were. Did they descend from the peoples who crossed the Bering Strait 30,000 to 40,000 years ago to settle the New World or whether they were more recent immigrants.