ancient DNA

Who-We-Are-and-How-We-Got-Here

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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Current Archaeology 342

Even a brand new town can hold ancient secrets. That is certainly the case at Sherford, currently under construction outside Plymouth, where wide-ranging excavations have revealed a wealth of clues to much earlier occupation spanning thousands of years. Some of the Sherford structures are enigmatic, but the estate covered in our next feature is downright […]

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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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Prehistoric pop culture: deciphering the DNA of the Bell Beaker Complex

More than 4,500 years ago, a hugely popular cultural phenomenon – today known as the Bell Beaker Complex – captured the prehistoric imagination, flourishing across much of Europe. Archaeologists are still deliberating over how this Complex, first identified in the 19th century, developed so quickly and effectively. Now the largest ancient DNA study to-date has shed revolutionary new light on the question, with surprising implications for our understanding of ancient populations – particularly that of Britain, which seems to have undergone an almost complete genetic turnover in just a few centuries.

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Current Archaeology 338

Over 4,500 years ago, the Bell Beaker phenomenon swept across much of Europe. The resulting changes to burial practices and technology are clear in the archaeological record, but the origins of these ideas were obscure. Now ancient DNA analysis has revolutionised this picture –and revealed that the impact on the make-up of Britain’s population was […]

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Face to face with Cheddar Man

The nearly 10,000-year-old skeleton who came to be known as ‘Cheddar Man’ was found in 1903, in Gough’s Cave at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. In more recent times, his remains have been on display in the Human Origins Hall at the Natural History Museum. Despite his fame, until recently little was known about this individual. Now a team from UCL and the Natural History Museum has successfully sequenced his DNA for the first time, revealing a wealth of details about his physical appearance – with dramatic implications for our understanding of how inhabitants of Mesolithic Britain looked.