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A Belgium-based Egyptologist has rediscovered the oldest known Egyptian leather manuscript, dating back more than 4,000 years to late Old Kingdom and early Middle Kingdom (2300-2000 B. The manuscript, which measures 8.2 feet long, had been locked up in storage at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo since shortly before the outbreak of World War II.Wael Sherbiny, an Egyptian-born scholar trained in Belgium, announced the find at a recent meeting of the International Congress of Egyptologists.That makes it one of only seven such manuscripts to have survived to the present day—and the only one on leather; the other six are on papyrus.While leather was considered a more prestigious material, making it the ideal choice for a religious text, it is much less durable and highly susceptible to damage from Egypt’s dry climate.The idea is that an ancient genome has evolved less than the genomes of present-day individuals and thus has experienced fewer recombination events since the common ancestor.
Key to these studies is the reliable estimation of the age of ancient specimens.
High-resolution age estimates can often be obtained using radiocarbon dating, and, while precise and powerful, this method has some biases, making it of interest to directly use genetic data to infer a date for samples that have been sequenced.
Here, we report a genetic method that uses the recombination clock.
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