|Skeleton of a 12-year-old Sumerian boy, from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin|
[British archaeologist Sir Leonard] Woolley’s team found 48 or more graves in a flood-plain, an area which was once subject to regular flooding. The skeletons there were unusually old, dating to an early era known as the Ubaid period (ca. 6500-3800) but only one was intact and fit to be removed. The skeleton and the dirt surrounding him was excavated and coated in wax and shipped to London first. Upon reaching Philadelphia, however, he was lost to time — only one of a multitude.
Until recently, the primary advocates for testing Sumerian DNA have been followers of Zecharia Sitchin, who hold the unusual belief that the ancient Sumerians socialized with extraterrestrials and may have carried alien genes. But there are plenty of more conventional reasons to study Sumerian DNA: it stands to tell us where the first city-builders came from and who their contemporary descendants are. The migration of the Sumerians is one of the great untold stories of human civilization; if we aim to tell it, DNA is the best tool we have.