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Genetic Secrets of Ancient Egypt Unwrapped: DNA from Mummies found

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Scientist Verena Schuenemann is shown examining the lower jaw bone of an ancient Egyptian mummy at the Palaeogenetics Laboratory at the University of Tuebingen in Germany in this undated photograph, May 30, 2017. VOA

DNA from mummies found at a site once known for its cult to the Egyptian god of the afterlife is unwrapping intriguing insight into the people of ancient Egypt, including a surprise discovery that they had scant genetic ties to sub-Saharan Africa.

Scientists on Tuesday said they examined genome data from 90 mummies from the Abusir el-Malek archaeological site, located about 70 miles (115 km) south of Cairo, in the most sophisticated genetic study of ancient Egyptians ever conducted.

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The DNA was extracted from the teeth and bones of mummies from a vast burial ground associated with the green-skinned god Osiris. The oldest were from about 1388 BC during the New Kingdom, a high point in ancient Egyptian influence and culture.

Genomes provide a surprise

The most recent were from about 426 AD, centuries after Egypt had become a Roman Empire province.

“There has been much discussion about the genetic ancestry of ancient Egyptians,” said archeogeneticist Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

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“Are modern Egyptians direct descendants of ancient Egyptians? Was there genetic continuity in Egypt through time? Did foreign invaders change the genetic makeup: for example, did Egyptians become more ‘European’ after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt?” Krause added. “Ancient DNA can address those questions.”

The genomes showed that, unlike modern Egyptians, ancient Egyptians had little to no genetic kinship with sub-Saharan populations, some of which like ancient Ethiopia were known to have had significant interactions with Egypt.

The closest genetic ties were to the peoples of the ancient Near East, spanning parts of Iraq and Turkey as well as Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Middle-class mummies

Egypt, located in North Africa at a crossroads of continents in the ancient Mediterranean world, for millennia boasted one of the most advanced civilizations in antiquity, known for military might, wondrous architecture including massive pyramids and imposing temples, art, hieroglyphs and a pantheon of deities.

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Mummification was used to preserve the bodies of the dead for the afterlife. The mummies in the study were of middle-class people, not royalty.

The researchers found genetic continuity spanning the New Kingdom and Roman times, with the amount of sub-Saharan ancestry increasing substantially about 700 years ago, for unclear reasons.

“There was no detectable change for those 1,800 years of Egyptian history,” Krause said. “The big change happened between then and now.” (VOA)

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Indian Arabic Magazine ‘Satwul Hind’ to Publish its 500th Edition in July

Indian embassy celebrates as the Indian Arabic magazine 'Sawtul Hind' reaches 500th edition

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Indian embassy celebrates as Indian Arabic magazine reaches its 500th edition
Indian Arabic magazine reaches 500th edition. Wikimedia commons
  • The Arabic magazine ‘Sawtul Hind’ published by the Indian embassy reaches a milestone next week as it publishes its 500th edition
  • The launch of the 500th commemorative issue of the magazine will be celebrated in Cairo
  • A photo exhibition will be featured as the celebration of Sawtul Hind’s 500th issue from July 17 to 20 at The Egyptian Centre for International Cultural Cooperation

New Delhi, July 12, 2017: The Indian Arabic magazine ‘Sawtul Hind’ published by the Indian embassy in Egypt for the past six decades is going to witness a milestone next week as it publishes it 500th edition depicting the strong bond and vibrant cultural exchanges between India and Egypt.

The launch of the 500th commemorative issue of the magazine will be celebrated by the Indian embassy at the Egyptian Centre for International Cultural Cooperation in Cairo on Monday, mentioned PTI report.

The first edition of ‘Sawtful Hind’ was published in 1952 and continues to be an interface between India and Egypt by collating information on the political, economical and cultural relationship between the two countries.

Sanjay Bhattacharya, India’s Ambassador to Egypt, wrote an editorial in the commemorative issue saying when a journal reaches its 500th edition, in a journey over six momentous decades, it becomes a “chronicle of history”.

ALSO READ: For the First Time, Indian Embassy in Cairo organises Yoga Championship in Egypt.

“Sawtul-Hind came to light as our nations emerged out of the shackles of colonialism as independent countries. India and Egypt were actively engaged in promoting South-South cooperation, growth of Non-Aligned Movement and encouraging regional and multilateral cooperation,” added Bhattacharya in the latest edition that will be released during the celebration on Monday.

The magazine is committed to continue its efforts to “feature the rich diversity of India, a nation with the confidence of a rich heritage and the optimism of a dynamic future,” said the ambassador.

A photo exhibition will be featured as a part of the celebration of Sawtul Hind’s 500th issue, displaying Sawtul Hind’s journey over the past six decades, through various covers of the magazine. The exhibition will be open for the visitors from July 17 to 20 at the hall of the Egyptian Centre for International Cultural Cooperation.

The launch ceremony will witness the performance of an Oriental Music group from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. Egyptian Minister of Culture Helmy El Namnam is going to be the Chief Guest of the event.

Being one of India’s most important trading partner in the African continent; having mutual political understanding based on cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues; India and Egypt, two of the world’s oldest civilizations have shared a history of close relationship from ancient times.

Three streets in Cairo are named after Indian leaders namely, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Dr. Zakir Hussein.

-prepared by Samiksha Goel. Twitter: goel_samiksha

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Mummies’ DNA Reveals Egyptians Relatives From The East

It was found that the genetic ties of the mummies were from the Middle East and Greece

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Egyptian Mummies
Egyptian mummy casket egyptian art. Pixabay
  • Ancient DNA study of 90 Egyptian mummies revealed the hook-up history of the Egypt with the foreigners from the east
  • Verena Schuenemann was able to finally get the clean DNA samples by working on samples from teeth and bone
  • The revelation did not come as a surprise to the scientists as they found the genetic ties of the mummies to the Middle East and Greece

June 26, 2017: The mummies of the Egypt and THE Egyptian art always fascinated us. The way bodies are preserved in the Egyptian mummy caskets and the mummification process has always interested the scientists in particular.

When the ancient DNA of 90 Egyptian mummies was studied, it revealed the hook-up history of the Egyptians with the foreigners from the east.

The first DNA sample from the mummies was yielded in 1985 but the samples were highly contaminated and scientists could not find a way to get clean DNA samples, free of modern contamination.

Verena Schuenemann and her colleagues from the University of Tübingen in Germany were able to finally get the clean DNA samples from three mummies by using the latest technology on human genetic testing by working on the samples extracted from teeth and bones rather than using the soft tissue. The origin of the mummies was found to be from 1388 BC to 426 AD.

The revelation did not come as a surprise to the scientists as they found the genetic ties of the mummies to the Middle East and Greece since Egypt was a centre of trade and travel back in time.

Prepared by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)