Face of 6th-century Chinese Emperor Wu revealed by DNA analysis

Face of 6th-century Chinese Emperor Wu revealed by DNA analysis
via 全球大視野
Ryan General
11 days ago
Chinese researchers have used DNA analysis and 3D rendering to reveal the face of Emperor Wu, a 6th-century ruler.
Key points:
  • Emperor Wu’s tomb was discovered in 1996, containing a nearly complete skull and other bones, reported The Smithsonian.
  • The DNA analysis is detailed in a study published on March 28 in Current Biology.
  • The reconstruction raises the possibility that a stroke may have caused Emperor Wu’s mysterious death.
About Emperor Wu:
  • Emperor Wu ruled the Northern Zhou dynasty from AD 560 to AD 578. He is credited for unifying northern China following the Northern Qi dynasty’s defeat.

The details:
  • Researchers extracted over 1 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the ancient DNA. SNPs are single-letter differences within DNA that occur throughout the genome.
  • The scientists used 3D software, SNPs and skull data to render the emperor’s face. The facial reconstruction also revealed Emperor Wu’s hair, eye and skin color.
  • Historians believed the emperor belonged to the Xianbei, a nomadic group from Mongolia/northern China. The findings confirmed that Emperor Wu’s physical features were typical of East or Northeast Asian populations.
  • “Our work brought historical figures to life,” study co-author Pianpian Wei said in a statement. “We are able to reveal the appearance of the Xianbei people directly.”
  • Emperor Wu died mysteriously at age 36 in 578. Theories posited by archeologists regarding his death include illness or poisoning by rivals.
  • The study aligns with historical records describing Emperor Wu as having stroke-like symptoms before his death.
What’s next:
  • Researchers plan to analyze ancient DNA to learn more about migration and cultural exchange in China.
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