Ancient DNA: Novel Insights into Human Past and Their Social Impact



Year of publication 2022
Type Conference abstract
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Ancient DNA (aDNA) is DNA isolated from specimens older than 100 years and its analysis has become a crucial part of multiple scientific disciplines, such as archaeology, anthropology, paleopathology and evolutionary biology. Archaeogenetics (aDNA research) has thus introduced radically novel perspectives on development of human societies. Thanks to the latest advances in laboratory and sequencing technologies, aDNA can be used on an individual level to estimate personal characteristics such as sex and health status. On population-scale, the increasing sample size allows for inference of traits as migration, population size, inheritance rules, biological relatedness and relation of social stratification to genetic background. In our research, we are using archaeogenetics to study these patterns in particular in the Migration Period and Early Middle Ages of Central Europe. To fully describe populations in the highly turbulent period of the 1st millennium, it is important to capture a wide range of regional and social diversity. In our projects, this is achieved with an unprecedented amount of samples from more than 6,000 individuals, comprehensive sampling strategy and high success rate of aDNA retrieval from decomposed human remains using our cutting-edge protocols. Discoveries achieved with help of aDNA have a large society-wide significance. This concerns in particular the impact of human settlements on the environment and vice versa (sedimentary aDNA, population constrictions), understanding past pandemics and their consequences (thanks to bloodborne pathogens preserved especially in teeth and immune-related markers in ancient human genomes) and comprehending social and biological processes regarding human migration and mobility. Currently, we are interested in changes in kinship systems (via IBD inference of distant relatives and large-scale genealogies) and a complex relationship of identity and ancestry widely discussed within identity politics today.
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