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DNA-based study reconstructs face of Japanese woman from 3,800 years ago


Researchers for the first time reconstructed the head of a woman from the Jomon Pottery Culture period (c. 8000 B.C.-300 B.C.) using a DNA analysis that removed much of the guesswork usually involved.

DNA-based study reconstructs face of Japanese woman from 3,800 years ago
A reconstructed head of a Jomon woman from 3,800 years ago is displayed next to her actual skull
[Credit: Tetsu Kobayashi]
The project team, including scientists from the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo’s Ueno district, revealed the head on March 12.

The DNA was collected from a molar of the Jomon woman from about 3,800 years ago. Her skeletal remains, including the skull, were unearthed at the Funadomari historic site on Rebunto island, Hokkaido.

The genetic analysis provided the team with information about her facial features, including skin and eye color.

DNA-based study reconstructs face of Japanese woman from 3,800 years ago
The reconstructed head of a Jomon woman based on her skull and genetic information
[Credit: Tetsu Kobayashi]
The scientists concluded that the woman had darker skin and lighter brown eyes than Japanese people today, as well as freckles and thin, frizzy hair.

The team also confirmed that her blood was type A, and she stood about 140 centimeters tall.

Conventional facial reconstructions have been based mainly on the physical features of the skull. Researchers have had to assume skin and eye colors based on the attributes of modern people.

The genetic information allowed for a more accurate reconstruction, the team said.

DNA-based study reconstructs face of Japanese woman from 3,800 years ago
The skull of a Jomon woman found on Rebunto island, Hokkaido. Her DNA
was extracted from a molar to identify the color of her skin, hair and eyes
[Credit: Tetsu Kobayashi]
“Backed by solid data, we now can reconstruct (facial features) with quite a high accuracy, a process that has been done only through imagination,” said Kenichi Shinoda, director of the Department of Anthropology of the national museum.

The reconstructed model and project outline will be included in a feature exhibition at the museum, “The Body: Challenging the Mystery,” which runs from March 13 through June 17.

The exhibition is organized by The Asahi Shimbun and others.

Author: Shuichi Doi | Source: The Asahi Shimbun [March 13, 2018]

TANN

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