The 15th century Inuit mummies excavated at Qilakitsoq in Greenland in 1978 were exceptionally well preserved and represent the largest find of naturally mummified specimens from the Arctic. The estimated ages of the individuals, their distribution between two adjacent graves, the results of tissue typing, and incomplete STR results led researchers to conclude that the eight mummies formed two distinct family groups: A grandmother (I/5), two daughters (I/3, I/4), and their two children (I/1, I/2) in one grave, and two sisters (II/6, II/8) and a daughter (II/7) of one of them in the other. Using mtDNA from hair and nail, we have reanalyzed the mummies. The results allowed the unambiguous assignment of each of the mummies to one of three mtDNA haplogroups: A2b (I/5); A2a (I/2, I/3, II/6, II/8); A2a-311 (I/1, I/4, II/7), excluded some of the previous relations, and pointed to new ones. I/5 is not the grandmother/mother of the individuals in Grave I, and she is not maternally related to any of the seven other mummies; I/3 and I/4 are not sisters and II/7 is neither the daughter of II/6 nor of II/8. However, I/1 may be the child of either I/4 or II/7 and these two may be sisters. I/2 may be the son of I/3, who may be the daughter of either II/6 or II/8, and these two may be sisters. The observation of haplogroups A2a and A2b amongst the 550-year-old Inuit puts a lower limit on the age of the two lineages in Greenland.
Keywords: DNA, Mitochondrial; Genetics, Population; Greenland; Hair; Haplotypes; History, 15th Century; Humans; Inuits; Mummies; Nails; Paleopathology; Polymerase Chain Reaction