DNA Discovery through bones found in water burial

DNA Discovery through bones found in water burial

A recent investigation by a research group at the University of Helsinki has found a 75 kg of human bone material at a site in Levänluhta area in Isokyrö, SW Finland. The study draws attention to an ancient tradition during the Iron Age around 300 AD that buried the deceased in lakes for over 400 years. When experts dug trenches, skulls and human bones were discovered. It was also found that these were preserved in anoxic and ferrous water.

Questions raised by historians, archaeologists, and locals for over 150 years have finally been answered. Some of the main focuses of the study were to investigate the identity of the buried deceased and the reason for their burial so far from the dwelling sites underwater. “In our part, we wanted especially to find out the origins of the Iron Age remains found from Levänluhta,” says Anna Wessman, lead author the study.

The research has now become part of an elaborate study that is examining colonization and population history of Siberia with DNA data from ancient human bones, up to 31 000 years old. State-of-the-art DNA sequencing technology was adapted for the study. “Inability to repeat even our own results was utterly frustrating,” commented Professor Antti Sajantila on the early phases of the project.

According to reports, the first Finnish results proved to be accurate. Results showed that genomes of three Levänluhta individuals resembled those of modern Sámi people. This further shed light on the fact that Sámi people inhabited the Isokyrö region in ancient times. The carbon dating confirmed that the bones belonged to people who had died during 500 – 700 AD. Doubts were however raised on who the people were: whether locals or recent immigrants or just ordinary passers-by. This was found through other techniques of DNA. The solution in the enamel of teeth hinted on the origin of the people. The enamel suggested that the people grew up in the Levänluhta region.

The project has laid the groundwork to study DNA data and to understand water burials as a phenomenon. The results of the study have been published in the recent issue of the journal Nature.