The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Ancient DNA Recovery from Angel Mounds: DNA Degradation Attributed to Archaeological Field Methods


1Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, 2Department of Anthropology, Indiana University-Bloomington

Thursday 3, Park Concourse Add to calendar

Legacy collections offer a potentially rich resource for ancient DNA research; however, unknown issues affecting DNA preservation may limit the success of a collections-based ancient DNA project. The Angel Mounds skeletal series is a culturally unaffiliated legacy collection curated at the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University, and comprises the remains of more than 300 individuals from the Mississippian period Angel Mounds site (ca. A.D. 1050-1400) east of Evansville, Indiana. The goal of the current project was to examine the relationship between burial location and genetic relatedness at Angel Mounds, to examine mitochondrial diversity at this Mississippian site, and to compare genotypic results with previously published data from burials at other ancient Midwestern archaeological sites. Small postcranial fragments from one hundred individuals were sampled for ancient DNA analysis, which was completed at the Indiana Molecular Biology Institute using widely accepted ancient DNA laboratory methods. The rate of mitochondrial genetic sequence recovery was poor: five individuals yielded replicable results, five additional individuals yielded results that were partially replicated through two independent DNA extractions, and fifteen individuals yielded partial data that could not be confirmed through subsequent DNA extractions. DNA degradation is retrospectively attributed to archaeological field methods that caused the sun drying of human remains during excavation. Explanations for DNA preservation in the five burials yielding replicable results are explored, and archaeological methods affecting collections-based ancient DNA research are discussed.

This research was funded by the Indiana Academy of Science (grant number 97366) and the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University-Bloomington.

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