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The Human Family Tree Has Many Branches


One of the most useful outcomes of modern genetic testing is that it allows scientists to discover the many branches of the human family tree. However, it appears that not all the branches have been successful, and some have even ceased to exist over time. Scientists have recently discovered one such unknown human branch when they tested the DNA of a 5,300 year-old mummy found in the Eastern Alps near the Austro-Italian border.

As reported in the Daily Mail, the mummified ‘iceman’ (the oldest known in existence) was found trapped in a melting glacier. Forensic tests indicate the iceman met a violent death. One theory suggests he may have been part of a raiding party on neighbouring territory, became injured, attempted a retreat and subsequently succumbed to his wounds on the glacier. Snow quickly covered his body and, over time, nature mummified it.

DNA tests have confirmed the mummified iceman belonged to a previously unknown branch of humanity. Researchers think he is unlikely to have any descendants alive today.

The iceman lived to the age of 45 (which would have been an advanced age for the times), he walked long distances (also somewhat unusual for the times) and he was carrying some fairly refined tools (such as a copper axe). This suggests he came from a sophisticated culture. It also raises an interesting genealogical question: How can a sophisticated culture cease to exist over time and have no living descendants in the present?

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