DNA Yields Clue to Eye Color of the Long Dead

Scientists paint picture of unknown Nazi victims
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2013 9:27 AM CST
DNA Yields Clue to Eye Color of the Long Dead
A new DNA test tells scientists the eye and hair colors of people who've been dead for years.   (Shutterstock)

A new DNA test lets researchers in on the eye and hair colors of people who have been dead for decades—or centuries. Scientists have learned, for instance, that a woman buried among monks in a medieval tomb had brown eyes and brownish hair. They've also deduced the eye and hair colors of 12 people killed by the Nazis whose identities have never been known; their skulls were displayed in a museum as belonging to "sub-humans."

"This system can be used to solve historical controversies where color photographs or other records are missing," a scientist says. Known as HIrisPlex, the DNA test can be applied to bones and teeth. The first test was on a tooth belonging to Poland's World War II general Wladyslaw Sikorski, who died in 1943. It showed that Sikorski—of whom no color photos exist—was 99% likely to have had blue eyes and 85% likely to have had blond hair. That matches descriptions of him, AFP reports. (Read more DNA stories.)

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