Ancient hairball helps paint picture of 4,000-year-old man from Greenland

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Washington, Feb 11 (ANI): Scientists have taken the help of a 4,000-year-old hairball found frozen in Greenland to create the first ancient-human genome, and subsequently draw a picture of a dark-eyed man with dry ear wax who was prone to balding.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the hair sample used in the study was recovered from northern Greenland in the 1980s and had been kept since then at the National Museum of Denmark.

Well preserved in Arctic permafrost, the hair belonged to "Inuk," a relatively young member of the now extinct Saqqaq culture, the earliest known inhabitants of Greenland.

The Saqqaq have long presented a puzzle to scientists, according to study co-author Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

"Various theories have suggested that they were direct ancestors to the Inuit, or that they were actually Native Americans who penetrated into the High Arctic," Willerslev said.

But little has been known about the Saqqaq's genetic history, since archaeological sites have yielded only a few small bits of preserved bone and hair.

The new DNA evidence, presented online today by the journal Nature, shows that Inuk's closest relatives are not the ancestors of today's Native Americans and Inuits, but three Arctic peoples of the Siberian Far East: the Nganasans, Koryaks, and Chukchis.

"This evidence suggests a [unique] migration happening around 5,500 years ago," Willerslev said, adding that this estimate nicely matches the earliest archaeological evidence of New World Arctic habitation.

In addition, analysis of Inuk's genome-which is comparable in quality to a modern human genome-allowed the scientists to create a DNA-based profile of the Saqqaq male.

Inuk's genome reveals he most likely had brown eyes, dark skin and hair, and even dry earwax.

Although the ancient Greenlander had genes susceptible to baldness, he seems to have retained plenty of hair, leading scientists to suspect he died young.

Inuk had the shovel-graded front teeth common in both Asian and Native American populations, and his A blood type is relatively frequent in northeastern Siberia.

His metabolism also appears to have been genetically fine-tuned for life in unforgiving cold climates.

According to geneticist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Spencer Wells, in addition to establishing this genetic portrait, the newly sequenced Saqqaq genome offers the first hard proof for a theorized third human migration from Siberia to the New World. (ANI)

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