It's truly fantastic to hear that scientists have used a specimen of permafrost-preserved hair to sequence the genome of a male, known henceforth as Inuk, who lived in Greenland some 4,000 years ago.
This feat was performed under the direction of two Danish geneticists, Morten Rasmussen and Eske Willerslev, and their results were confirmed by laboratories throughout the planet... including a DNA laboratory at Murdoch University in Perth and an Australian police laboratory in Canberra.
The basic article concerning this achievement, entitled Ancient human genome sequence of an extinct Palaeo-Eskimo, appeared in the journal Nature. [Click the banner to access the article.]
Inuk's paternal haplogroup is designated as Q1a, which characterizes peoples who migrated from Siberia into the New World some 5,500 years ago. He belonged to a cultural group called the Saqqaq. Funnily, this means that Inuk does not belong to the same family as modern Inuit populations. To obtain their spectacular results, the researchers had to identify over a third of a million SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms, called "snips"). The most amazing aspect of these findings is that Inuk's genome provides the researchers with a lot of interesting facts about this man's physical features:
— His blood type was A+.
— He probably had brown eyes.
— His skin and hair were probably rather dark. Besides, he would have normally become bald at an early age.
— He probably had front teeth of a form designated as "shovel-graded".
— His earwax was probably of a dry kind, like that of Asians and Native Americans (as distinct from the wet earwax of other ethnic groups).
It's amusing to learn that, since none of the institutions involved in this project employ Saqqaq descendants, the chances of errors due to DNA contamination from laboratory assistants were practically zero.
In my recent article entitled Nativity rites [display], I made a plea in favor of the systematic DNA-testing of babies. My old friend Odile phoned me the next day to tell me that she thought I had "blown a fuse"... which suggests that many people still regard DNA-testing as a weird operation. No, I persist and sign this idea— which is not at all crazy—of nativity rites of a new kind, based upon a DNA record for the newborn child. When we observe the fascinating facts that can be gleaned from a DNA specimen that dates from four millennia ago, it becomes obvious that we should encourage the generalized registration of such fabulous individual "blueprints".