When it comes to deciphering our ancient family tree, DNA from fossils is the new gold standard. But after about half a million years, even the best-preserved DNA degrades into illegibility, leaving the story of our early evolution shrouded in mystery. A new study of proteins taken from the tooth of an enigmatic human ancestor reveals their rough place in the family tree—and shows how ancient proteins can push beyond the limits of DNA.
Category Archives: Ancient DNA
DNA contains the biological instructions that drive the existence of every living organism, shaping the world as we know it. With the help of advanced technologies, these complex molecules can also reveal the secrets of people and creatures that came long before us. Scientists have studied DNA preserved within an array of centuries-old relics, from human remains, to fossilized rodents’ nests, to the pages of medieval manuscripts. Here are eight objects that have undergone DNA testing and yielded fascinating revelations about the history of life on Earth.
In a new study out in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, scientists attempted to identify six historical remains found in unmarked graves in Québec, Canada, by sequencing ancient DNA and taking advantage of one of the few extensive genealogical databases available in the world.
New ‘DNA clock’ finds that if our genes had their way, humans would have a ‘natural’ lifespan of 38 years
Humans have a “natural” lifespan of around 38 years, according to a new method we have developed for estimating the lifespans of different species by analysing their DNA.
The dead lay in a cave, over a quarter-mile from daylight. Investigators counted remains from at least 28 individuals. The bones were fractured into nearly 7,000 pieces, mixed with bear fossils and mud — and a 6-inch, teardrop-shaped handaxe.
DNA analysis identified the individuals, dated to approximately 430,000 years ago, as early Neanderthals — our evolutionary cousins — or their ancestors.
Just before his death, Pliny — also known as Gaius Plinius Secundus, a military leader and author of the influential tome “Natural History” — was fighting pirates in the Bay of Naples, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. When he saw a strange cloud (later found to be the result of the volcano’s massive eruption), he heroically directed Rome’s imperial fleet southward to Pompeii, where they planned to rescue survivors.
DNA proteins extracted using a vortex fluidic device (VFD) could help answer important questions about extinct and ancient museum specimens.
A team of experts appear to have solved a mystery that has confounded academics – and the public – for decades.
How did the Egyptian mummy on display in the Ulster Museum die?
The Shum Laka rock shelter in Cameroon, where the remains of two 8,000-year-old boys were discovered in 1994. Scientists recently recovered ancient DNA from the two individuals and from another pair of children buried 5,000 years later.
Nearly 6,000 years ago, in what’s now Denmark, a Neolithic crafter fashioned a ring from a piece of deer antler or bone. During the process, or soon after, the piece broke in two. It was apparently dropped — perhaps discarded in frustration — near other items, including a wooden spear that was also broken.
And there the ring waited, over time buried by debris and dirt, and eventually submerged beneath the sea.
In recent years, anthropologists around the world have discovered new human ancestors, figured out what happened to the Neanderthals, and pushed back the age of the earliest member of our species.
Taken together, these breakthroughs suggest that many of our previous ideas about the human origin story – who we are and where we came from – were wrong.
Human origins research. The phrase probably evokes an image of dusty scientists hunched over in the sun, combing the ground for scraps left behind by people of millennia past. The field has long been the realm of stones and bones, with test tube-filled laboratories playing second fiddle.
The rise of ancient genomics has revolutionised our understanding of human prehistory but this work depends on the availability of suitable samples. Here we present a complete ancient human genome and oral microbiome sequenced from a 5700 year-old piece of chewed birch pitch from Denmark.
Our research, published today in Scientific Reports, looked at how DNA changes as an animal ages – and found that it varies from species to species and is related to how long the animal is likely to live.
Oscar Nilsson is a world-renowned reconstruction artist, taking the remains of prehistoric humans and bringing them back to life using a complex system of anatomical analysis, 3D printing, and occasional DNA analysis. But what’s equally vital to his job is a sense of context.