Say Hello To “Inuk”

An artist's depiction of "Inuk"

A study of 4,000-year-old remains has allowed scientists to sequence the genome of an individual trapped in the permafrost of Greenland.  From the remains and the genome sequencing, scientists have been able to determine that the man — called “Inuk,” which means “human” in the language of Greenland natives — likely was prone to baldness, had “shovel-shaped” front teeth, and had “dry earwax.”  Other than that, he undoubtedly would have been quite the stud at his tribe’s seal-slaughter festival.

What is interesting about this discovery is not that scientists have been able to make such determinations from 4,000-year-old remains, but rather that at the same time “Inuk” was noshing on seal blubber and huddled in a small dark tent, freezing and suffering through the endless winter nights, the Egyptian civilization was flowering thousands of miles away.  At about the same time Inuk met his maker in the Greenland permafrost, Cheops was erecting the Great Pyramid that continues to astonish modern tourists, and his contemporaries were establishing the literature and culture that marked one of the high points of Egyptian civilization.

What made humans develop relatively advanced civilizations in some areas, while in others they continued to live in primitive tribal conditions?  Of such questions is science made.

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