DNA for Archaeologists by Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith, K. Ann Horsburgh

By Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith, K. Ann Horsburgh

The facility to take advantage of DNA facts is revolutionizing our figuring out of the previous. This publication introduces archaeologists to the fundamentals of DNA study to allow them to comprehend the powers and pitfalls of utilizing DNA facts in archaeological research and interpretation. by means of targeting the rules and functions of DNA particular to archaeology, the authors permit archaeologists to assemble DNA samples appropriately and interpret the laboratory effects with higher self belief. Written by way of archaeologists who behavior fieldwork in addition to laboratory research, the amount is replete with case examples of DNA paintings in quite a few archaeological contexts and is a perfect instructing device for archaeologists and their scholars.

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All of these methods involve bursting the cells (if cell structure remains) and recovering total genomic DNA (nuclear and mtDNA). Rather than analyzing the whole genome now, researchers typically target a particular region of DNA, such as the hypervariable region of the mitochondrial genome, through the use of a technique called the Polymerase Chain Reaction. Amplifying DNA—The Polymerase Chain Reaction The Polymerase Chain Reaction is one of the most basic and widely applied techniques in molecular biology.

This is particularly important when working in an isolated location without a nearby university, grocery store, or other facilities where necessary equipment such as tubes or bleach can be obtained. There is also significant value in collaborating with potential aDNA specialists as early in the process as possible. Most importantly, archaeologists should discuss with them the questions that the project aims to address with genetic data. This will ensure that researchers come to understand the kinds of data that can be expected to emerge and what those data will, and (crucially) will not be able to say.

Contamination refers to any DNA that is derived from sources other than the specimen being analyzed. DNA is present in every cell—in saliva, in dandruff, in other bodily detritus—and cells are constantly being sloughed from the body. From these modern sources, DNA is in excellent condition and will inevitably be transferred to anything we touch. To make matters worse, we are not only leaving our DNA everywhere, but we are also shedding bacterial cells and their DNA. That DNA is terrific for a forensic scientist who is interested in analyzing the DNA left on a cigarette butt or a beer bottle, but it is a nightmare for an aDNA researcher.

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