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Face of eskimo with key to ancient trek

All that is left of him are four tufts of hair and four fragments of bone, yet the DNA of an Eskimo who died 4,000 years ago in Greenland has shed new light on human history.

Inuk -- named after the Inuit word for man, and who was found preserved in ice -- is the first ancient human being to have his genetic code read. DNA extracted from Inuk's hair has revealed that he had dark skin -- and his thick black locks may have been thinning as his genes suggest a predisposition to baldness.

Inuk's DNA shows that he was more closely related to the Koryak and Chukchi Eskimo tribes of modern Siberia than to the Inuit of Canada and Greenland. This indicates that his people crossed the Bering Strait to North America independently of the indigenous groups that still live there today.

hnews@herald.ie


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