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Mitogenomic diversity in Sacred Ibis mummies sheds light on early Egyptian practices

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Wasef, S, Subramanian, S, O'Rorke, R, Huynen, L, El-Marghani, S, Curtis, C, Popinga, A, Holland, B ORCID: 0000-0002-4628-7938, Ikram, S, Millar, C, Willerslev, E and Lambert, D 2019 , 'Mitogenomic diversity in Sacred Ibis mummies sheds light on early Egyptian practices' , PLoS One, vol. 14, no. 11 , pp. 1-15 , doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223964.

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Abstract

The ancient catacombs of Egypt harbor millions of well-preserved mummified Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) dating from ∼600BC. Although it is known that a very large number of these ‘votive’ mummies were sacrificed to the Egyptian God Thoth, how the ancient Egyptians obtained millions of these birds for mummification remains unresolved. Ancient Egyptian textual evidences suggest they may have been raised in dedicated large-scale farms. To investigate the most likely method used by the priests to secure birds for mummification, we report the first study of complete mitochondrial genomes of 14 Sacred Ibis mummies interred ∼2500 years ago. We analysed and compared the mitogenomic diversity among Sacred Ibis mummies to that found in modern Sacred Ibis populations from throughout Africa. The ancient birds show a high level of genetic variation comparable to that identified in modern African populations, contrary to the suggestion in ancient hieroglyphics (or ancient writings) of centralized industrial scale farming of sacrificial birds. This suggests a sustained short-term taming of the wild migratory Sacred Ibis for the ritual yearly demand.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Wasef, S and Subramanian, S and O'Rorke, R and Huynen, L and El-Marghani, S and Curtis, C and Popinga, A and Holland, B and Ikram, S and Millar, C and Willerslev, E and Lambert, D
Keywords: sacred ibis mummies, genetic diversity
Journal or Publication Title: PLoS One
Publisher: Public Library of Science
ISSN: 1932-6203
DOI / ID Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223964
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2019 Wasef et al. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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