In the late 18th century, a person was buried in Griswold, Connecticut, along with his femur bones organized in a criss-cross method — a placement indicating that locals thought he was a vampire. However, little else was identified about him. More than 200 years later, DNA proof is revealing what he could have appeared like. (And sure, he was genetically human.)
After performing DNA analyses, forensic scientists from a Virginia-based DNA expertise firm named Parabon NanoLabs, and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL), a department of the U.S. Armed Forces Medical Examiner System based mostly in Delaware, concluded that at the time of dying, the deceased male (often called JB55) was about 55 years previous and suffered from tuberculosis. Using 3D facial reconstruction software program, a forensic artist decided that JB55 doubtless had truthful pores and skin, brown or hazel eyes, brown or black hair and a few freckles, in line with a press release.
Based on the positioning of the legs and cranium in the grave, researchers suspect that sooner or later the physique was disinterred and reburied, a observe usually related to the perception that somebody was a vampire. Historically, some folks as soon as thought that those that died of tuberculosis have been really vampires, in line with the assertion.
“The remains were found with the femur bones removed and crossed over the chest,” Ellen Greytak, director of bioinformatics at Parabon NanoLabs and the technical lead for the group’s Snapshot Advanced DNA Analysis division, informed Live Science. “This way they wouldn’t be able to walk around and attack the living.”
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To carry out the analyses, forensic scientists started by extracting DNA from the man’s skeletal stays. However, working with bones that have been greater than two centuries previous proved difficult.
“The technology doesn’t work well with bones, especially if those bones are historical,” Greytak stated. “When bones become old, they break down and fragment over time. Also, when remains have been sitting in the environment for hundreds of years, the DNA from the environment from things like bacteria and fungi also end up in the sample. We wanted to show that we could still extract DNA from difficult historical samples.”
In conventional genome sequencing, researchers attempt to sequence each bit of the human genome 30 instances, which is called “30X coverage.” In the case of the decomposed stays of JB55, the sequencing solely yielded about 2.5X protection.
To complement this, researchers extracted DNA from an particular person buried close by who was believed to be a relative of JB55. Those samples yielded even poorer protection: roughly 0.68X.
“We did determine that they were third-degree relatives, or first cousins,” Greytak stated.
Archaeologists initially unearthed the supposed vampire’s stays in 1990. In 2019, forensic scientists extracted his DNA and ran it by means of an on-line genealogical database, figuring out that JB55 was really a person named John Barber, a poor farmer who doubtless died of tuberculosis. The nickname JB55 was based mostly on the epitaph spelled out on his coffin in brass tacks, denoting his initials and age at dying.
This week, researchers will unveil their new findings, together with the facial reconstruction, at the International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI) (opens in new tab) convention, held from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 in Washington, D.C.