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.
- Molecular archaeology
- aDNA authenticity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)