Genetic Characterization and Assessment of Authenticity of Ancient Korean Skeletal Remains


To study the maternal lineage history of Korea, we extracted DNA from the skeletal remains of 35 museum samples (some dating back to the Paleolithic Age) excavated from 11 local burial sites scattered throughout southern Korea. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequences (HV1, HV2, and HV3) were successfully determined for 11 samples with no sharing of the control region polymorphisms with individuals involved in the laboratory analyses. Each of the 11 mtDNAs was assigned to the appropriate East Asian mtDNA haplogroup according to the haplogroup-specific control region mutation motif and diagnostic coding region single nucleotide polymorphism. The successful mtDNA haplogroup determination for each ancient Korean mtDNA and the confirmation of the absence of abnormal mutations based on the haplogroup-directed database comparisons indicates that there is no mosaic structure from cross-contamination or sample mix-up or other errors in our mtDNA sequences. The presence of haplogroups B, D, and G in the prehistoric age is consistent with the hypothesis that the early Korean population has a common origin in the northern regions of the Altai Mountains and Lake Baikal of southeastern Siberia. In addition, the modern Korean population, which possesses lineages from both southern and northern haplogroups, suggests additional gene flow from southern Asian haplogroups in recent times, but many more ancient samples need to be analyzed to directly tell whether there was regional continuity or replacement of early lineages by other lineages in ancient Korea.