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What a Decade of Ancient DNA Analysis Has Taught Us

Ten years of ancient genome analysis has taught scientists ‘what it means to be human’.  A ball of 4,000-year-old hair frozen in time tangled around a whalebone comb led to the first ever reconstruction of an ancient human genome just over a decade ago. The hair, which was preserved in arctic permafrost in Greenland, was collected in the 1980s and stored at a museum in Denmark. It wasn’t until 2010 that evolutionary biologist Professor Eske Willerslev was able to use pioneering shotgun DNA sequencing to reconstruct the genetic history of the hair. He found it came from a man from the earliest known people to settle in Greenland known as the Saqqaq culture. It was the first time scientists had recovered an entire ancient human genome.