By examining DNA collected from skeletal remains, researchers hope to gain insight into the doomed 1845 Franklin Expedition to the Arctic, Live Science reports.
The expedition was searching for the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but the sailors became trapped by ice and abandoned their ships to journey by land south to a mainland trading post. None made it, as Live Science recounts, and remains found along the route have been examined to find evidence of scurvy and cannibalism.
A team of Canadian researchers has now developed a DNA database based on bone and tooth samples collected from these sites, as they report in the Journal of Archaeological Science. From this, they generated genetic profiles for 24 members of the expedition.
The researchers say their analysis provides a more accurate view of which crewmembers died where. Live Science adds that the team found that some of the samples appeared to come from women. The researchers note that that could be due to insufficient levels of the Y chromosome in samples or that there were indeed women on board.
Author Douglas Stenton from the Department of Culture and Heritage in Nunavut, Canada, tells Live Science that his team has been in touch with descendants of the expedition crew and that they are interested in participating in additional research.