• Tufan Akbay

DNA of 1600-Year-Old Sheep Remains Found in Iran Examined

Updated: Jun 10

Geneticists and archaeologists have analyzed DNA from a 1600-year-old sheep leg found among naturally mummified human and animal remains discovered in 1993 at the Sassanid-era Douzlākh salt mine near the village of Chehrābād in Zanjan Province in northwest Iran.

It is hoped that DNA analyzes from sheep found next to human remains dating to the Achaemenid period and called the "Salt Men" will provide clues to the animal husbandry of the Near East.

According to the results of the research in the article published in the international peer-reviewed journal Biology Letters on June 14 with the signature of Conor Rossi; It was also determined that there were microorganisms in the skin of the sheep's leg, whose DNA has survived to the present day, even though it was damaged and fragmented.

Their DNA is genetically similar to the Sassanid sheep breeds living in the region today. This proves that the genetic lineage of sheep herds is not degraded.

Conor Rossi, lead author of the study, “Mummified remains are extremely rare, so prior to this study, little experimental evidence was known that ancient DNA survived in these tissues. The astonishing integrity of DNA was unlike anything we had encountered before in ancient bones and teeth. This conservation status of DNA combined with the unique metagenomic profile is an indication of how fundamental the environment is for tissue and DNA degradation dynamics.”

From Trinity's School of Genetics and Microbiology, Dr. Kevin G Daly, “Using a combination of genetic and microscopic approaches, our team was able to create a genetic picture of what sheep breeds looked like and how they might have been used in Iran 1,600 years ago. Using interdisciplinary approaches, we can learn what ancient cultures valued in animals, and this study shows us that Sassanid Iranian people may have managed herds of specialized sheep for meat consumption and suggested well-developed livestock practices''

Source and Cover photo: Arkeolojikhaber