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From Aug 2006 - Nov 2013 WeDig provided a live forum for diggers & fans of Vindolanda. It has now been mothballed and will be maintained as a live archive.

Here you will find preserved 7 years of conversation, photos, & knowledge about a site many people love. Vindolanda gets under the skin. (Figuratively and literally as a volunteer excavator!) It's a place you remember, filled with people you remember!

Thanks for 7 great years!

Human remains?
Contamination from modern handling is always a potential problem with human tissue, but there are protocols to get round it. I think with bones you typically saw out a chunk in a controlled environment and take tissue from below the surface. For really critical samples you have it done at two different labs and can then compare results and easily pick up cases of contamination.

Most likely someone has tried this in the past and the bone was too degraded.

Human remains?
If the bones were in the anaerobic layers I would be very surprised if the nuclear DNA was degraded badly enough to get no amplification (I've never done archaeological PCR, but plenty from ordinary tissue). Certainly there would be some mtDNA to be had.

An essentially complete genome sequence for Neandertals was published last year from a 40,000 year old bone, so in terms of age alone these Roman era bones are suitable for PCR. Condition of the bones at Vindolanda may not be as good, but if there are many finds, then I have to believe that some of them still hold amplifiable genomic fragments.

I was really thinking about being able to use the analysis to show likely regional origin of the person, it should be possible to show whether the person was a Celt, Brit of some other kind or likely a Roman or Gaul for example.

Human remains?
I've never seen any mention of human bones being recovered (although I may easily have missed it) from the Vindolanda site. I'm thinking that DNA testing should be possible, given the preservation level of many other finds, and might reveal interesting details of the owner's regional origin.

Can anyone chime in on this?