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The Qilakitsoq Mummies

A recent paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology examined mtDNA extracted from the hair and nails of eight Inuit mummies. These essentially freeze-dried mummies were discovered in 1972 in a natural tomb at Qilakitsoq in the Uummannaq Municipality of Greenland. Using C14 analysis, the mummies have been dated to approximately 1460.

The bodies were found in two separate positions about 1 meter apart. In Grave I, there were five bodies:

  1. I/1 = Male Infant #1 – about 6 months of age
  2. I/2 = Male Infant #2 – about 4 to 4.5 years of age
  3. I/3 = Female #1 – about 20-25 years of age
  4. I/4 = Female #2 – about 25-30 years of age
  5. I/5 = Female #3 – about 40-50 years of age

In Grave II, there were 3 bodies:

  1. I/6 = Female #4 – about 50 years of age
  2. I/7 = Female #5 – about 18-21 years of age
  3. I/8 = Female #6 – about 50 years of age

The researcher’s primary goals were to sequence the HVR1 region of each individual’s mtDNA, and then to compare the results to determine possible relatedness of the remains. All 8 individuals fell into Haplogroup A2, but belonged to three different maternal lineages which were mixed between the two grave sites:

  1. Male Infant #2, Female #1, Female #4, and Female #6
  2. Male Infant #1, Female #2, and Female #5
  3. Female #3

All of the remains had the following mutations – 16111, 16223, 16290, 16319, and 16362. Of course, this goes along VERY nicely with my hypothesis at my Haplogroup A website that, barring back-mutation, most A haplogroup HVR1’s should have exactly those mutations. That list was the haplotype of subgroup #1. Subgroup #2 had a mutation at 16311, and subgroup #3 had a mutation at 16265. For a description of the possible maternal familial relationships between the remains, click on the figure below.
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Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007