Tag Archives: mummy DNA

Otzi the Iceman’s mitochondrial DNA


The Iceman reconstruction and mummy

For anyone not familiar with the Ice mummy, he’s a copper age man from the Alps, about 5,300 years old. He’s too well documented on for me to bother with a full biography of him. But the more interesting points are in brief..

He had tattoos of dots and spirals, that are possibly related to the arthritis in his knee as a form of acupuncture. He also had the blood of several people on him and his gear, so he seems to have been in some kind of conflict, possibly a tribal raid. He had an arrow head lodged in him (probably the cause of death) and his position suggests that he may have been turned over so the arrow could be removed. This suggests he wasn’t alone when he died.

Close examination of his mitochondrial DNA showed mutations associated with low sperm mobility, so it’s possible he was infertile. The more interesting thing about his mt DNA is that it is a previously unseen variant of K1, and it’s quite possibly extinct in the modern European population. What’s that? Banging on about how mt DNA types can be lost? How out of character.


Complete Mitochondrial Genome Sequence of the Tyrolean Iceman

Luca Ermini et al.


The Tyrolean Iceman was a witness to the Neolithic–Copper Age transition in Central Europe 5350–5100 years ago, and his mummified corpse was recovered from an Alpine glacier on the Austro-Italian border in 1991 [1]. Using a mixed sequencing procedure based on PCR amplification and 454 sequencing of pooled amplification products, we have retrieved the first complete mitochondrial-genome sequence of a prehistoric European. We have then compared it with 115 related extant lineages from mitochondrial haplogroup K. We found that the Iceman belonged to a branch of mitochondrial haplogroup K1 that has not yet been identified in modern European populations.This is the oldest complete Homo sapiens mtDNA genome generated to date. The results point to the potential significance of complete-ancient-mtDNA studies in addressing questions concerning the genetic history of human populations that the phylogeography of modern lineages is unable to tackle.


DNA evidence from ancient Nubians.

Unfortunately this DNA study doesn’t discriminate between L3 and later non African mutations. However, since M1, U, pre HV and a whole slew of other Eurasian DNA hg’s date to about 35k, then later to 12k in North Africa, this study probably isn’t massively far off the mark for lower Nubia . 

mtDNA analysis in ancient Nubians supports the existence of gene flow between sub-Sahara and North Africa in the Nile valley

C. Fox, 1997:


The Hpal (np3,592) mitochondrial DNA marker is a selectively neutral mutation that is very common in sub-Saharan Africa and is almost absent in North African and European populations. It has been screened in a Meroitic sample from ancient Nubia through PCR amplification and posterior enzyme digestion, to evaluate the sub-Saharan genetic influences in this population. From 29 individuals analysed, only 15 yield positive amplifications, four of them (26·7%) displaying the sub-Saharan African marker. Hpa I (np3,592) marker is present in the sub-Saharan populations at a frequency of 68·7 on average. Thus, the frequency of genes from this area in the Merotic Nubian population can be estimated at around 39% (with a confidence interval from 22% to 55%). The frequency obtained fits in a south-north decreasing gradient of Hpa I (np3,592) along the African continent. Results suggest that morphological changes observed historically in the Nubian populations are more likely to be due to the existence of south-north gene flow through the Nile Valley than to in-situ evolution.
Krings et al study, 1999:

A study which included the modern population of both lower and upper Nubia show them to be about 45% maternally Eurasian, and there’s been virtually no immigration into the lower Nubia area from Asia according to the Y chromosome study of the area by Lucotte; which suggests this 60% Eurasian figure in the mummies is probably very roughly correct; (unless you believe there were invading armies of Arab women) particularly since the Dakhleh Oasis ancient and modern mt DNA analysis shows more Sub Saharan mt DNA than the ancient Egyptian samples, which is possibly attributable to the Arab slave trade. The Y chromsome study of lower Nubia here suggests historic male input from non Africans into the area is less than 5%, so it’s hard to argue for the ancient samples being massively different based on the modern DNA of the area.