aDNA

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Generating the genomes of ancient plague

New DNA research into the evolution and spread of the plague has shown that during the first documented pandemic (AD 541-750) there were several different strains of the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, affecting different parts of Europe during different waves of the disease. The project also identified the earliest evidence of plague in Britain.

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Review – The many faces of Tudor England

A new temporary exhibition presents the latest research into the remains recovered from the Mary Rose, revealing new details about a diverse crew who hailed from both Britain and abroad, and setting them in the context of Tudor society.

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Finding the origins of the first farmers

A recent ancient DNA study looking at the genetics of Neolithic Britons provides strong evidence to suggest that the shift to farming in Britain was due to migration from the Continent and not from local populations adopting agricultural methods – something that has been hotly debated for decades.

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Current Archaeology 352

Our cover feature takes us 16 years back in time to revisit a justly famous Essex excavation. Found in 2003, the burial chamber of the ‘Prittlewell prince’ was a remarkable discovery: an undisturbed Anglo-Saxon tomb furnished with well-preserved artefacts. Since then, a battery of scientific analysis has revealed it to be an even richer source […]

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Current Archaeology 349

Three of our features this month focus on finds recently declared ‘Treasure’ according to the 1996 Treasure Act – legislation that has helped museums acquire many important artefacts for public display. The Heritage Minister has now proposed a number of revisions to the Act, and has launched a public consultation on them. See p.16 of […]

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Review – Who We Are and How We Got Here

In this fascinating book, geneticist David Reich reveals the origins of modern populations through the study of DNA. The results of analysis of hundreds of bone samples thanks to the ‘ancient DNA revolution’ are remarkable and have the potential to overturn long-held beliefs about identity and cultural change.

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Science Notes – Studying the secrets of syphilis

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.

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