Russiα’s defence minister has taken time out from massing troops on Ukrαine’s borders to unveil a ‘Dolly the Sheep’ cloning dream involving ancient royal warriors and their prize horses using DNA preserved in permafrost. Sergei Shoigu – one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies – spoke about the potential of the extraordinary 3,000-year-old Scythian ʙᴜʀɪᴀʟs in Tuva, his mountainous native republic in Siberia.
The ancient Tunnug burial site of nomadic warriors – often laid to rest with their horses – is in an area known as the Valley of the Kings in Tuva. When Shoigu, 65, initiated the Russiαn-Swiss archeological digs here three years ago a modern-day shaman was even drafted in by scientists to ensure the excavations did not anger the spirits.
The defence chief told a session of the Russiαn Geographical Society, also attended remotely by Putin, on Wednesday: ‘Of course, we would like very much to find the organic matter.’ He was referring to well-preserved remains of ancient people and animals, explained TASS. ‘I believe you understand what would follow that,’ said Shoigu in a broadcast by Zvezda TV.
‘It would be possible to make something of it, if not Dolly the Sheep.’ He added, without explaining more of planned genomic research that ‘in general, it will be very interesting’. The ʙᴜʀɪᴀʟs were in permafrost and according to scientists, organic matter should be preserved there.
We have conducted several expeditions there already, it is a big international expedition. ‘A lot of things have been confirmed, but a lot remains to be done.’
Shoigu has been in the limelight in recent days spearheading Russiα’s build up of almost 100,000 troops close to Ukrαine, triggering fears of a new ᴡᴀʀ– but at this session he spoke about more ancient warriors.
The burial is among the earlier Scythian remains. Greek historian Herodotus in the fifth century BC claimed the Scythians made cloaks from their ᴠɪᴄᴛɪᴍs’ scalps after victory. The savage warriors are believed to have used their enemies’ skulls as drinking cups. Legend says they drank the ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ of their vanquished foes. The valley contains so-called ‘tsar’ mounds from the Scythian era.
It is not the first time Shoigu has spoken about finding ‘organic’ matter which can be investigated by scientists for DNA. While exciting remains have been found, there are still hopes to dig deeper into the mounds and find remains similar to a tattooed princess discovered in a mound in Siberia’s Altai Mountains.
The ancient Scythian ʙᴜʀɪᴀʟs in Siberia
Research on the Tuva burial mound, known as Arzhan 2, began in 1998. Russiαn and German archaeologists began excavating the Scythian burial mound on a grassy plain that locals have long called the Valley of the Kings in 2001. The nomadic Scythian tribes roamed the Eurasian steppe, from the northern borders of China to the Black Sea region, in the seventh to third centuries B.C..
The Scythians are generally believed to have been of Iranian origin and spoke a language of the Scythian branch of the Iranian languages. In the 7th century BC, the Scythians crossed the Caucasus and frequently raided the Middle East, playing an important role in the political developments of the region.
How Dolly was created
Dolly was the only surviving lamb from 277 cloning attempts and was created from an mammary cell taken from a six-year-old Finn Dorset sheep.The sheep was born at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh in July 1996 and announced to the world on February 22 1997. She was created using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer.
The pioneering technique the Roslin team used involved transferring the nucleus of an adult cell into an unfertilised egg cell whose own nucleus had been removed.An electric shock stimulated the hybrid cell to begin dividing and generate an embryo, which was then implanted into the womb of a surrogate mother.
Dolly was the first successfully produced clone from a cell taken from an adult mammal. Dolly’s creation showed that genes in the nucleus of a mature cell are still able to revert back to an embryonic totipotent state – meaning the cell can divide to produce all of the different cells in an animal.