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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Jomon Woman’s Genome Decoded in Japan

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

TOKYO, JAPAN—Analysis of the genome of a woman who was buried on Japan’s northern island of Rebunto during the Jomon Period, some 3,800 years ago, revealed similarities to the genomes of people who live in the Arctic, according to a report in The Asahi Shimbun. Scientists led by biological anthropologist Hideaki Kanzawa of Japan’s National Museum of Nature and History extracted DNA from one of the Jomon woman’s molars, and found that she likely had light brown eyes, frizzy hair, and dark skin with freckles. She also carried a genetic mutation linked to the ability to digest large quantities of fat. In fact, the bones of marine animals such as sea lions, which are very high in fat, have been unearthed at the Funadomari historic site, where the woman’s remains were found. Today, the mutation is found in about 70 percent of people living in the Arctic, but is rare in present-day Japanese. The analysis also suggests the woman had a high tolerance for alcohol and a wet type of earwax. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

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