Challenging environments: ancient DNA research in the circum-Caribbean


Ancient DNA (aDNA) studies have had a major impact in archaeology. However, until now most aDNA studies have been conducted on samples from cold or temperate environments, as DNA degrades more rapidly at higher temperatures. With average annual temperatures of over 25°C, the Caribbean represents a particularly challenging environment for aDNA research and very few aDNA studies have been conducted in the Caribbean to date. Yet, there are many questions in Caribbean archaeology that could be addressed using aDNA, and previous studies have shown that DNA does preserve in the Caribbean context, in some cases possibly up to several thousand years. However, the factors influencing DNA preservation in this challenging environment are as yet not well understood. In this paper, we systematically explore the effects of temperature, age, microbial action, time since excavation, sample and soil type, and burial setting on DNA preservation in the Caribbean, using low-coverage, high-throughput DNA sequencing of human and canine samples from over 20 different sites in across the Caribbean. This study demonstrates the importance of burial context and sample type in the selection of successful samples with a higher likelihood of amplifiable DNA, especially in these challenging environments.

Cite this Record

Challenging environments: ancient DNA research in the circum-Caribbean. Kirsten Ziesemer, Menno L.P. Hoogland, Corinne L. Hofman, Christina Warinner, Hannes Schroeder. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403194)


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min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;