Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snowy Days and old DNA

We left Boston on Friday morning, just as the storm was rolling in, and by the time we got to the New Hampshire border there was snow over the Interstate, and driving was self-restricting to two lanes. Driving got a little tougher that evening (glad to get out of Mass before the governor closed the roads at 4 pm) but we managed, though there was, by the time we made the hotel at night, about a foot of snow on the ground.

Today, Saturday, that had increased to over two feet, which made it difficult to get out and do anything, other than dig the path. Of course, as it was just about finished, along came the snow blower - but this being Maine, they carefully redirected the flow so that it missed the path.

Figure 1. Snowblowing the sidewalk.

And since they left a wall between the sidewalk and the road, it will be safe to walk back to the hotel tonight. But being caught by the snow I started to try and catch up on one or two things.

For example there is the role of DNA in identifying royalty, most recently with the finding of the body of King Richard III. Because of his somewhat rare mitochondrial DNA, investigators were able to locate two family descendants which validated the remains were those of the king. He will be reburied next year, and there will no doubt be a resurrection of his reputation. But since I went to Lancaster, and he was the leader of the White Rose York side of the Wars of the Roses, perhaps I won't be too sympathetic.

On the other hand DNA had an interesting role to play in identifying another monarch, albeit one a little older.
In 1993, archeologists found the mummified body of a young woman on Ukok Plateau in Russia's Altai region. The plateau is located in the area of Russia's border on Mongolia. The mummy of the woman with a tattoo on her shoulder became known as the Princess of Altai. Scientists from Novosibirsk say that the cause of the woman's death, who died 2,500 years ago, is still shrouded a mystery.
I am likely to return to this Princess of the Pazyryk people at some future date, but had thought that the Princess was of similar extraction to the two soldiers who were buried with her, and which were of a more Asian background. However the rendition of her head has a more Aryan structure, and it turns out, through analysis of her DNA, that, to quote Pravda:
The Princess of Ukok does not relate to any of (Asian) races. She has a European appearance, she is 170 centimeters tall. A DNA analysis revealed her haplogroup R1a - Aryan blood. According to experts' estimates, 70 percent of eastern Slavs belong to this haplogroup.

Altai Aborigines say that the mummy is their progenitor. They call her Princess Kadyn, or Kydyn. The tattoo on her arm conceals very important information for mankind. The time to read the information has not come yet, Aborigines say. They also believe that the woman was a priestess and that she passed away voluntarily to protect the Earth from evil spirits.
So, if I am to model her, and her tattoos, it poses several questions . . . . . There is no more, yet!