While we have talked a lot about ancient DNA (aDNA) in ‘Science Notes’, it has mainly been in the context of decoding ancient human genomes. We have not really delved into the other applications of the methodology, including the detection of ancient pathogens. However, this is a quickly emerging area that could have a huge impact on how we are able to study health and disease in the past, and deserves some unpicking.
This month we are doing something a little different, exploring a wider theme rather than a specific technique. A recent public-interest piece in Nature – published in response to their research paper about the Bell Beaker culture (for more on this research, see CA 338) – discusses the ‘sometimes straining’ relationship between archaeologists and geneticists.
In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we are discussing yet another form of dating: uranium-thorium (U-Th) dating, also known as uranium-series dating. Readers may already be aware of the technique, as it has featured a few times in research covered by CA over the years (see CA 83, 93, and 259), but recently it made international headlines for its use in determining that cave paintings in Iberia pre-date the presence of modern humans.
The application of proteomics, or the analysis of proteins, to archaeology is a fairly recent phenomenon – it only became viable thanks to developments in high-throughput, high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry – and archaeological scientists are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the many ways in which this technique might be used. Its potential is exciting, however.
In the first ‘Science Notes’ (CA 333), we discussed the identification of a possible female Viking warrior using ancient DNA analysis. This is a guaranteed way to confirm sex in human remains, but can be costly, time-consuming, and destructive to the bone, meaning that it is not feasible when a project needs to determine the sex of a large number of skeletons.
In last month’s ‘Science Notes’ we took you on a tour of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, discussing the intricacies of radiocarbon dating. There is the risk of portraying the process as fixed and static, but it is always being updated with new treatments and techniques – to make the method even more precise and […]
For this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we went to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU ) to explore the enigmatic process behind radiocarbon (14C) dating, sitting down with Professor Tom Higham, the deputy director of ORAU, and Dr David Chivall, the lab’s chemistry manager, to discuss ORAU’s history, laboratory practices, and current research, as well as future prospects.
In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we take an in-depth look at archaeomagnetic dating, highlighting recent advances in reliability and its future prospects in UK archaeology.
For our first Science Notes outing, we bring you a recently published paper that has caused a bit of a stir in the archaeological world, as it claims to have identified a female Viking warrior.