Watch CBSN Live

Ancient Greenlander's Whole Genome Decoded

Scientists have decoded the whole genome of an ancient human for the first time in history.

Researchers analyzed thick tufts of hair from a man who lived 4,000 years ago along the west coast of Greenland, revealing facts about a previously unknown human migration and leaving scientists with a detailed picture of what the Greenlander probably looked like, according to a New York Times report.

The subject was part of a Paleo-Eskimo culture archaeologists call the Saqqaq. According to studies of the genome, the Saqqaq's were most closely related to the Chukchis, who live on the eastern tip of Siberia. The Greenlander's ancestors likely split from the Chukchis 5,500 years ago and migrated across the Arctic regions of North America before settling in Greenland.

The complete mapping of the genome has allowed scientists to form a detailed picture of what the Greenlander may have looked like:

Variations in his DNA suggest he had brown eyes. He also carried the East Asian version of a gene known as EDAR, which likely gave him thicker hair than most Europeans or Africans. He also probably had dry earwax, much like Asians and Native Americans.

Evidence also indicates the Greenlander was at risk of baldness, despite the quantity of hair recovered. In fact, he probably died at a young age, according to Dr. Morten Rasmussen, who led the genome-mapping team along with University of Copenhagen colleague Dr. Eske Willerslev.

Archaeologists excavated the hair in 1986. It was found along with other waste, suggesting that it was the remains of a haircut.

The research into the Greenlander's genome was .