3 Ancient History Discoveries Made with Genomics Research

Image of DNA strand against colour background

Although a recent field of scientific study, genomics research has a strong connection to the ancient history of our world. With genetic research, scientists can turn back the clock tens of thousands of years to provide new and unknown connects to modern humans and the secrets locked in their DNA.

The findings aren’t limited to the human genetic history. With new findings comes new understanding of how the cultural events shape future generations. The makeup of specific ethnic populations is an ever-evolving aspect of human life – they grow, shrink, move, and interact with other groups, building the foundation for future generations’ genetic codes.

Three recent discoveries in particular have redefined understanding of ancient populations, providing answers to questions about the origins of entire ethnicities, and opening the door to new ways to accurately study and analyze the genetic history books.

1. Genomes Are Redefining Our Understanding of Neanderthals

When research first began in the quest to discover the extent to which Neanderthal DNA could be found in humans today, there were doubts and uncertainty among researchers to the point where even the thought of Neanderthal DNA having been interwoven into human DNA was “deeply suspicious.”

However, through extensive and ongoing research studying both the ancient DNA found around the world and DNA from today’s population, research showed that interbreeding did exist during the time in which Neanderthals and humans shared the European continent. Not only did it exist, but further research has shown it was more widespread than ever previously thought, and the impact on the origin of our DNA groups was prominent.

Much of the new data brought forth explanations that centered around the immense human migration history from the time of the Neanderthals until now. From early humans in northern Europe fleeing south to escape the Ice Age weather changes to mass movements of farmers into central Europe 9,000 years ago, these migrations helped shape the DNA of modern humans. And it’s not just Europeans – the people carrying most of the remnants of this ancient DNA are from east Asia, a fact attributed once again to a result of dramatic human migration.

Another recent revelation unearthed through this research is that throughout human migration history, the waves of new inhabitants serially replaced the local population much of the time, leading to more migration events. As research continues, the connection of Neanderthal DNA in humans and current genealogical traits will begin to piece together to form a more complete view of where we came from.

2. Native Americans Firmly Establish Their Roots with Surprise DNA

Although it has been known that the indigenous Native Americans are descended from peoples who crossed a land bridge between Asia and North America approximately 26,000 years ago, there still remains some questions regarding the genetic origin of these people, and how ancient Native American DNA shapes the genetics of various native people.

Driven by new research of the DNA from the remains of a child who lived over 11,000 years ago in central Alaska, researchers are gaining new insight into the migrations and events of the early population groups in the Americas.

When the first genetic data from what is now known as the Upward Sun River child was recovered and studied, it showed that there were unique lineages present that were atypical of contemporary people living in the same area. These findings confirm the existence of a group of ancient Native American people, called the Beringians, who were isolated in and around central Alaska from all other populations for roughly 7,000 years. This isolation caused the development of unique DNA variations found in Native Americans. Following the end of the last Ice Age, subsections of this population began to migrate south into lower North America and South America.

However, the Upward Sun River did not belong to either the Northern or Southern groups that comprise much of the Native American ancestry lineage. Surprisingly, she was equally related to both groups. Scientists interpret this result to her ancestors remaining in Alaska after splitting from the ancestors of the other Native American groups.

Today’s Native Americans can trace their unique DNA histories back to these groups, and the findings of the Beringian peoples show how diverse their genetic markers can be, even when traced back to a similar start.


3. Egyptologists Extract New Genome Data

Rarely does a genetic discovery cause scientists and researchers to re-evaluate the history of an entire regional population. But recent studies of ancient Egyptian DNA show that the region’s earliest people were the closest genetic relatives of groups found in the Near East, Anatolia and eastern Mediterranean Europe. Modern Egyptians have been shown to share much of their DNA with ethnicities originating from sub-Saharan areas.

The research was done via the study of bone samples from mummies dating to approximately 1400 B.C to A.D. 400. Scientists extracted DNA from 151 mummies and mapped the full genome in three cases. This DNA was compared to the genetic makeup of modern-day Egyptians, and the resulting data showed strong connections between the ancient Egyptian ancestry and populations in the Mediterranean Sea regions.

Much of the excitement emanating from the research groups came from their description of the findings as “the first reliable data set obtained from ancient Egyptians.” In the past, outside factors such as heat and high humidity in the tombs, along with the mummification process, have degraded the DNA studied from this time period to the point where many results have come with extensive skepticism.

But these new breakthroughs, in particular the ability to decode the genome of the ancient Egyptians for the first time, have given new credence to the findings of researchers in this area.

In addition, the ability to study the DNA at a mitochondrial genomic level allows for a broader sample set of the genetic makeup for the subjects. As professor Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute describes, “This is not just the DNA of one person. It's the DNA of the parents, grandparents, grandparents' parents, grand-grand-grandparents' parents and so forth.”


How Does This Apply to IMCS?

“IMCS is a leading biotechnology firm advancing the science of proteomics and DNA testing. Our company is dedicated to accelerating precision medicine, offering advanced research and patient sample preparation systems.”Understanding the inner workings of your genetic makeup are absolutely critical in aptly treating any medical condition. For uniquely personalized solutions to common healthcare pitfalls, we eliminate the guesswork.


Learn more about our life’s work and help us change yours.