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Human skeleton found on famed Antikythera shipwreck

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Author Topic: Human skeleton found on famed Antikythera shipwreck  (Read 280 times)
Raychel
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« on: September 19, 2016, 11:06:19 pm »



The surprisingly complex Antikythera mechanism modelled the motions of the Sun, Moon and planets.

Finding undisturbed remains such as those at Antikythera is crucial because it offers the opportunity to extract any DNA in the best possible condition. Previously salvaged bones are not ideal for analysis because they have often been washed, treated with conservation mater­ials or kept in warm conditions (all of which can destroy fragile DNA), or handled in a way that contaminates them.

Schroeder guesses from the skeleton’s fairly robust femur and unworn teeth that the individual was a young man. As well as confirming the person’s gender, DNA from the Antikythera bones could provide information about characteristics from hair and eye colour to ancestry and geographic origin. In the past few years, modern genome sequences have revealed that genetic variation in populations mirrors geography, says Schroeder. He and others are now starting to look at how ancient individuals fit on that map, to reconstruct past population movements. Would the shipwreck victim look more Greek-Italian or Near Eastern, he wonders?

Over dinner, the researchers decide to nickname the bones’ owner Pamphilos, after a name found neatly scratched on a wine cup from the wreck. “Your mind starts spinning,” says Schroeder. “Who were those people who crossed the Mediterranean 2,000 years ago? Maybe one of them was the astronomer who owned the mechanism.”

    Nature
    537,
    462–463
    (22 September 2016)
    doi:10.1038/537462a

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