1,600-year-old mummified sheep’s leg offers clues to ancient farming practices – .

1,600-year-old mummified sheep’s leg offers clues to ancient farming practices – .

CARLETON-SUR-MER, QUE. – DNA analysis of a 1,600-year-old mummified sheep’s leg found in Iran has revealed clues to how ancient people in the Middle East lived.

The sheep’s leg was recently discovered in the Chehrabad Salt Mine in Iran, the same salt mine where eight mummified “salt men” were found in 1993. The research team that carried out the DNA analysis, led by geneticists from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, published their findings in the journal Biology Letters on Wednesday.

The researchers were able to extract DNA from a small segment of mummified skin on the leg and found the sheep to be genetically similar to sheep currently seen in the region, suggesting that the sheep used in Iran today are direct descendants of the sheep. at least 1600 years ago.

“Using a combination of genetic and microscopic approaches, our team succeeded in creating a genetic picture of what breeds of sheep in Iran looked like 1,600 years ago and how they could have been used,” said the Study director Kevin G. Daly in a statement. Release.

DNA analysis showed that ancient sheep would have been very different from the domestic sheep we see on North American farms today. For starters, this sheep did not have the genes associated with a woolly coat and would not have grown fleece.

Instead, he would have had a shorter “hairy” coat that didn’t need to be mowed. Analysis of the hairs found on the leg using an electron microscope corroborated these results.

In addition, the sheep would have had a big tail. As the name suggests, fat tailed sheep accumulate fat in their tails, resulting in a wider and longer tail than other breeds of sheep. Fat tailed sheep are common in the Middle East, as these breeds of sheep are well adapted to arid climates.

These findings show that the ancient peoples of Iran “may have managed specialized flocks of sheep for meat consumption, suggesting well-developed herding practices,” Daly said.

A specimen like this would normally have suffered significant DNA damage, but was extraordinarily well preserved thanks to the salt, as well as the low moisture content of the mine. The researchers also discovered various microbes and bacteria that thrive in salty conditions, suggesting that these organisms play a role in the mummification process.

“The incredible integrity of DNA was unlike anything we had encountered before from ancient bones and teeth. This DNA preservation… liberation.


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