DNA analysis reveals diverse origins of Machu Picchu residents

New research, published in Science Advances, has shed light on the inhabitants of Machu Picchu during its peak. The study, led by Jason Nesbitt, an archaeology associate professor at Tulane University School of Liberal Arts, employed ancient DNA analysis to uncover the origins of workers buried at the famous Inca site more than 500 years ago.

Machu Picchu, situated in Peru’s Cusco region, is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site and a significant archaeological wonder. While it was once part of the Inca Empire’s royal estate, this study delves into the lives of not just royalty and elites but also the retainers and workers who lived on the estate year-round. These workers were known to come from diverse backgrounds, and the DNA evidence from this study confirmed their varied origins.

The researchers examined the DNA of 34 individuals buried at Machu Picchu and compared it to DNA samples from other regions within the Inca Empire and modern genomes from South America. The results revealed that the workers came from different parts of the empire, with some even originating from distant regions like Amazonia. Interestingly, they were brought to Machu Picchu as individuals, not as part of family or community groups.

The study emphasizes that genetics alone cannot determine ethnicity, but it does provide valuable insights into the diverse origins of the individuals who lived and worked at Machu Picchu. These findings align with historical records and archaeological evidence related to the burials.

This research exemplifies the integration of traditional archaeological methods with advanced technologies and scientific analyses. By combining these fields, archaeologists gain a more comprehensive understanding of the past and the people who shaped it.

Source: Tulane University

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