Inferring genetic origins and phenotypic traits of George Bähr, the architect of the Dresden Frauenkirche

Abstract

For historic individuals, the outward appearance and other phenotypic characteristics remain often non-resolved. Unfortunately, images or detailed written sources are only scarcely available in many cases. Attempts to study historic individuals with genetic data so far focused on hypervariable regions of mitochondrial DNA and to some extent on complete mitochondrial genomes. To elucidate the potential of in-solution based genome-wide SNP capture methods - as now widely applied in population genetics - we extracted DNA from the 17th century remains of George Bähr, the architect of the Dresdner Frauenkirche. We were able to identify the remains to be of male origin, showing sufficient DNA damage, deriving from a single person and being thus likely authentic. Furthermore, we were able to show that George Bähr had light skin pigmentation and most likely brown eyes. His genomic DNA furthermore points to a Central European origin. We see this analysis as an example to demonstrate the prospects that new in-solution SNP capture methods can provide for historic cases of forensic interest, using methods well established in ancient DNA (aDNA) research and population genetics.

Publication
In Scientific Reports
Date