Archaeology Magazine

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Is Our History Embedded in Our Music?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Taiwanese Indigenous Music DNAHAMILTON, ONTARIO—Music can help scientists track human migration, according to psychologist Steven Brown of McMaster University. He and a team of international researchers compared the structures of 220 Taiwanese choral songs recorded since the 1940s with mitochondrial DNA samples taken from more than 1,000 people living in different parts of the island. They found that the changes in the DNA, which occur at a predictable rate, corresponded to the changes in music over the past 6,000 years. “I think people thought that music was too transient to carry evidence of what happened thousands of years ago. Our results support the idea that music actually has elements in it that are ancient. In addition to being able to evolve quickly, it can also retain traces of ancient population movements,” he said.