Ancient DNA studies in physical anthropology

Dennis H. O'Rourke*, M. Geoffrey Hayes, Shawn W. Carlyle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Nucleic acids are preserved in prehistoric samples under a wide range of depositional environments. The development of new molecular methods, especially the polymerase chain reaction, has made possible the recovery and manipulation of these molecules, and the subsequent molecular genetic characterization of the ancient samples. The analysis of ancient (a)DNA is complicated by the degraded nature of ancient nucleic acids, as well as the presence of enzymatic inhibitors in aDNA extracts. We review aspects of ancient DNA preservation, a variety of methods for the extraction and amplification of informative DNA segments from ancient samples, and the difficulties encountered in documenting the authenticity of ancient DNA template. Studies using aDNA to address questions in human population history or human evolution are reviewed and discussed. Future prospects for the field and potential directions for future aDNA research efforts in physical anthropology are identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-242
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - 2000


  • Evolution
  • Extraction
  • Molecular archaeology
  • PCR
  • aDNA authenticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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