Russia's Defense Minister Wants to Clone 3000-Year-Old Scythian Army

Would it even be possible if cloning humans was legal?
Fabienne Lang

Russia's Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, hinted at the fact that the country could look into cloning a group of 3,000-year-old warriors lying in the ground in Siberia.

You can't help but conjure images of Game of Throne's icy White Walkers silently marching ahead through the snowy Siberian landscape at the mention of bringing back to life ancient, long dead warriors in icy Russia. 

Well, alright, they wouldn't quite be brought back to life in that way, but the imagery is fun. 

All jokes aside, when speaking with the Russian Geographical Society in mid April, Shoigu mentioned that "it would be possible to make something of it, if not Dolly the Sheep," reported Sputnik News. That "it" Shoigu mentions refers to the ancient DNA of Scythian warriors that's been lying preserved in permafrost in Siberia's tundra. 

Shoigu continued by saying "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”."

So even though Shoigu didn't explicitly say the country was going to be cloning long gone Scythian warriors, the insinuation was there.

First things first, who were the Scythian warriors? 

The Scythians were a group of nomadic warriors and people who lived between the 9th and 2nd Centuries BCE (these dates vary from the 9th Century until the 1st), and who are believed to have their origins from northern Mongolia to Iran. They ultimately moved northwards to Siberia, but were known for roaming large swathes of Eurasia. 

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Some of their remains were reportedly only uncovered just two decades ago by archaeologists sifting through the Tuva region of Siberia, where the army of potential clones lies in rest, Popular Mechanics explains.

Given the iciness and coldness of the region, permafrost maintained the remains in good condition, preserving biological matter exceptionally well. Hence the desire to use this matter to create new, cloned modern-day warriors. 

Can you clone a human?

As it stands right now, it's a simple answer: No. As the National Human Genome Research Institute states "human cloning still appears to be fiction." And aside from being technically difficult, ethical and moral concerns crop up concerning human cloning, not to mention the fact that it's currently illegal to do so.

Researchers at the Fung Institute of the University of California, Berkeley, explain a big misconception people have when it comes to cloning. Most people imagine that if we were to clone a human, they would come out as an exact replica of that first person. However, as the team points out, this isn't the case. Yes, physically they'd look identical, but in terms of the cloned person's personality, they would be different. It all boils down to the environment in which we grow up and live in — so how could they be fully the same?

Cloning of animals is already taking place, like black-footed ferrets in the U.S. who come from 30-year-old cells, and a horse cloned from 40-year-old material. However, these complex procedures required a huge amount of trial and error, and they were done to try and save endangered species — something us humans are not. 

Time will tell if Russia will clone its ancient group of warriors, but for now, we'll stay satisfied by watching the White Walkers on TV.

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