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Servants at Machu Picchu Had High Genetic Diversity, Ancient DNA Analysis Finds

People thought to be servants to Inca royalty at Machu Picchu show high levels of genetic diversity in a new analysis of ancient DNA. An international team of researchers sequenced DNA isolated from the teeth of 34 people buried at Machu Picchu, which they compared to samples from other Incan burial sites. As they report in Science Advances, the researchers found that individuals from Machu Picchu shared genetic ancestry with individuals from throughout the Incan Empire and that some had mixed ancestries from regions distant from one another. By contrast, individuals interred at the Incan capital of Cusco exhibited less diverse genetic ancestry, stemming largely from the Peruvian highlands and the Titicaca Basin, and individuals from rural communities had local ancestry. These findings suggested to the researchers that the individuals from Machu Picchu were aclla and yanacona, people were brought from lands the Inca conquered to serve the royalty. "This study does not focus on the life of 'royals' or political elites, but on the life of those that were brought to Machu Picchu to serve the nobility that lived there and operated the place," senior author Lars Fehren-Schmitz from the University of California, Santa Cruz, says in a statement. "Thus, it gives us a unique insight into the life of a highly diverse community of individuals and their families who were subject to Inca forced relocation and resettlement policies."