Radiological and genetic analysis of a Late Iron Age mummy from the Tuli Block, Botswana

Research Article
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01 February 2016

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Mummified human remains are valuable sources of information on past populations. Here we report on the radiological and molecular findings of a partially mummified individual found in northern Botswana. This desiccated mummy from the Tuli region is the first to have been reported from this region. The remains were those of an older male adult of African origin. He was interred in a tightly flexed position and wrapped in an animal skin. Computerised tomography (CT) scanning revealed that none of the internal organs was preserved. Multiple post-mortem alterations are seen, but apart from some degenerative changes of the lower vertebral column, the axial skeleton has remained intact. The advanced osteophytosis suggests an older age than what was previously estimated. The aDNA analysis confirms Sotho–Tswana and possibly Khoesan genetic relatedness, as could be expected from individuals from that region. These results represent one of the first CT scans of a mummified individual from southern Africa, and also the first successful aDNA extraction from such remains.

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