19 May 2022 The Future is the Product of the Past

Researchers sequenced the DNA 1,600-year-old sheep mummy from an ancient Iranian salt mine, Chehrabad

A multinational team of geneticists and archaeologists sequenced the DNA from a 1,600-year-old sheep mummy discovered from Chehrabad, a salt mine in Iran.

This unique specimen has revealed ancient Near Eastern sheep husbandry techniques and highlighted how natural mummification might impact DNA degradation.

Research results were just published in the peer-reviewed international journal Biology Letters.

The Chehrabad salt mine is notable for preserving biological material. The new research confirms that this natural mummification process – where water is removed from a corpse, preserving soft tissues that would otherwise be degraded – also conserved animal remains.

The Trinity geneticist-led research team took advantage of this by extracting DNA from a tiny slice of mummified flesh from a leg discovered in the mine.

While most old DNA is damaged and fragmented, the researchers discovered that the DNA from the sheep mummies was exceptionally well preserved, with longer fragment lengths and less damage than one would expect from such an ancient period. According to the researchers, this is due to the mummification process, with the salt mine offering perfect conditions for the preservation of animal tissues and DNA.

The mummified sheep leg
The mummified sheep leg. Photo: Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum and Zanjan Cultural Heritage Centre, Archaeological Museum of Zanjan.

The mummified animal was genetically identical to contemporary sheep varieties from the region, which suggests that sheep ancestors had been present in Iran since at least 1,600 years ago.

“Mummified remains are quite rare so little empirical evidence was known about the survival of ancient DNA in these tissues prior to this study,” says Conor Rossi, a Ph.D. candidate in Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology, and the lead author of the paper.

“The astounding integrity of the DNA was not like anything we had encountered from ancient bones and teeth before. This DNA preservation, coupled with the unique metagenomic profile, is an indication of how fundamental the environment is to tissue and DNA decay dynamics.

The team used the animal’s DNA preservation to look at genes linked to a fluffy fleece and a big tail–two key economic characteristics in sheep. Some wild sheep have a “hairy” coat, which differs greatly from the woolly coats seen in many domestic sheep today. Fat-tailed sheep are also common in Asia and Africa, where they are valued in cooking, and where they may be well-adapted to arid climates.

The researchers created a genetic imprint of the sheep and determined that the mummy lacked the gene variation linked with a woolly coat, but fiber examination using SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) revealed tiny features of the hair fibers compatible with hairy or mixed coat breeds. Intriguingly, the mummy carried genetic variants associated with fat-tailed breeds, suggesting the sheep was similar to the hairy-coated, fat-tailed sheep seen in Iran today.

Dr. Kevin G Daly, also from Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology, supervised the study.

“Using a combination of genetic and microscopic approaches, our team managed to create a genetic picture of what sheep breeds in Iran 1,600 years ago may have looked like and how they may have been used,” he said.

Read the original scholarly article about this research in Biology Letters.

Banner
Related Post

One-of-a-kind 1000- years-old gold earring found in Denmark

13 December 2021

13 December 2021

A metal detectorist in Denmark uncovered a one-of-a-kind piece of 11th-century gold jewelry that had never been seen in Scandinavia...

Last Assyrian Capital “Ninive”

7 February 2021

7 February 2021

Ninive is an ancient Assyrian city located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in northern Iraq, near today’s...

Unexpected finds under the Tel Aviv Suburban

21 August 2021

21 August 2021

In preparation for a planned residential building project in suburban Tel Aviv, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority have begun...

In the backstage of Smyrna Ancient Theater Latrina found

3 November 2021

3 November 2021

Interesting finds unearthed during the excavations of the 2400-year-old Ancient City of Smyrna in the Aegean region of Turkey continue...

7,000-year-old Ritual Complex Found In Jordan Desert

23 February 2022

23 February 2022

The team of French and Jordanian archaeologists has discovered a 7,000-year-old ritualistic complex near what is thought to be the...

The human remains of 29 people buried as offerings in a pre-Inca temple were found at the Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucalá excavation site

23 October 2021

23 October 2021

The human remains of 29 people buried as sacrificial offerings have been discovered in a pre-Inca temple in northern Peru....

Royal-Memorial Inscription Attributed to King Sargon II Discovered in Western Iran

25 April 2021

25 April 2021

In western Iran, Iranian archaeologists discovered a part of a royal memorial inscription attributed to the Neo-Assyrian king Sargon II....

Early Female Emperors in Japan “Empress Kōken”

2 July 2021

2 July 2021

Born into the aristocratic Fujiwara clan, this extraordinary woman first ascended to the throne as Empress Kōken and became the...

In Egypt, archaeologists have discovered a 4,500-year-old Sun temple.

16 November 2021

16 November 2021

Archaeologists discovered an ancient Sun temple in the Egyptian desert that dates back 4,500 years. The remains were discovered under...

East and West Meeting at the King’s Dinner Table

7 April 2021

7 April 2021

Researchers from Tezukayama University and the Uzbekistan Archaeological Institute reported that a food pantry about 37 feet long and 10...

China’s construction of the first archaeological museum which will house the famous Terracotta Warriors has been completed

19 April 2022

19 April 2022

Construction of the first archaeological museum in China’s northwestern province of Shaanxi, which will house the famous Terracotta Warriors, was...

A statue of God Apollo was found during sewerage works in Afyon city in western Turkey

30 May 2021

30 May 2021

A statue thought to belong to God Apollo was found during sewerage works in Afyon city in western Turkey. During...

New fortifications unearthed in Porsuk Mound excavations

11 August 2021

11 August 2021

In the excavations of Porsuk Mound, which is an important Hittite settlement and where traces of settlement remains can be...

Ancient Mesopotamians bred horse-like hybrids

17 January 2022

17 January 2022

New research finds that Mesopotamians were utilizing hybrids of domesticated donkeys and wild asses to drive their war wagons 4,300...

Medieval Ring with a Skull Emblem Found in Wales and The Gold Coins are Declared Treasure

11 April 2021

11 April 2021

Located in wales nine treasure finds dating from the medieval and post-medieval periods have been declared treasure. Metal detectors in...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.