Mummies Helped To Learn The Genetic History Of The Incas And Their Predecessors
Paleogeneticists have deciphered almost ten thousand years of the genetic history of modern Peru and the ancient Inca Empire. To do this, they combined fragments of DNA from the remains of ancient inhabitants of the Andes, including mummies. The results were published in the scientific journal Cell.
"We were extremely surprised that many major cultural and political entities, including the Moche, Huari, and Nazca empires, maintained a high level of genetic continuity during their rise and fall. This suggests that these cultures did not disappear due to mass military invasions and migrations of peoples, as it happened in other parts of the World," commented one of its authors, paleogeneticist from Harvard University Nathan Nakatsuka.
According to historians, the Inca Empire before the arrival of the conquistadors was the largest and most powerful state in the New World. It is now home to Peru, as well as parts of Chile and Ecuador. This state was formed around the beginning of the XIII century, and just two hundred years later, its possessions covered a huge area, which was home to 10 million people.
Before the Inca Empire, dozens of other States appeared and fell apart on the territory of Peru, some of which disappeared without a trace, and others became part of the culture of the following political entities. For example, the Inca Empire in some respects can be called the successor of an older state, the Huari Empire, which appeared on the territory of present-day Peru at the end of antiquity.
Historians have long been interested in how these Indian States were connected, how their inhabitants settled on the territory of the Andes and created unique languages and cultures that exist on their territory to this day. Nakatsuka and his colleagues got the first answers to these questions by conducting the largest genetic census yet of the ancient inhabitants of Peru and neighboring countries.
In total, scientists have decoded and studied the structure of more than six dozen genomes of ancient Indians. Fragments of their DNA scientists extracted from the bones of their mummies, which were found on the territory of tombs and ancient settlements in the low-lying and high-altitude regions of the Andes. The age of the oldest remains was nine thousand years, and the youngest about 500.
Comparing these DNA scientists learned a lot of interesting historical facts, previously unknown to science. For example, geneticists have found that despite the rapid history of the region, most populations of Indians who lived on the territory of Peru and neighboring countries, for the past two thousand years or even longer, maintained the same genetic structure.
This means that the emergence and collapse of various empires and cultures were not accompanied by mass genocides, migrations, and other large-scale events that are usually caused by wars. Why this happened, historians have yet to find out.
However, this rule was not followed by the Inca and Tiwanaku empires, two of the most famous and successful cultures of the Peruvian Indians. In particular, scientists have recorded traces of movement of residents of one region to other ends of the Inca Empire, and also found that the genetic composition of the inhabitants of the capitals of these States, Cuzco and Tuanaco, was very diverse.
This, as Nakatsuka and his colleagues note, is consistent with the fact that the Inca Empire United many different peoples. In turn, the Tiwanaku rulers spread the influence of their culture through a network of colonies and trading posts, which could also affect the genetic makeup of their people.
As scientists hope these data will greatly enhance the historians' conceptions of how to develop the culture of the ancient inhabitants of Peru in a pre-Columbian era, as well as resolve a lot of debates regarding the origin of the Inca Empire and other "superpowers" of the New world that arose in the Andes in the last nine thousand years.