What our ancestors looked like
Tuesday, February 5 2013 | 00 h 00 min | News
A method used to determine hair and eye colour using human remains is able to specify what people from the Middle Ages must have looked like.
The HIrisPlex DNA analysis system is normally used to study modern forensic samples. However, a study carried out by researchers from Poland and the Netherlands, whose findings were published in the journal Investigative Genetics, shows that it can also be used to help historians.
“This system can be used to solve historical controversies where colour photographs or other records are missing,” explained Dr. Wojciech Branicki, of the Institute of Forensic Research and Jagielonian University, in Poland. The system uses 24 natural variations (polymorphisms) to predict eye and hair colour.
That is how it was determined that General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who died in a plane crash in 1943, had the blue eyes and blond hair present in portraits painted years after his death. This system was also able to identify a mysterious woman, buried sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries in the crypt of the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec near Krakov, as having dark blond hair and brown eyes.