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Human remains?; DNA testing might reveal owner's origin
Topic Started: Mar 12 2010, 10:11 AM (685 Views)
Justin-T
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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?
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Justin-T
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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.

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Justin-T
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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.
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