Molecular Markers in Keratins from Hair and Baleen for Species Identification of Archaeological Artefacts


In this paper, we present a methodology to identify organic remains from Arctic and sub-Arctic origin. Peptide mass fingerprinting (based on the characterization of specific peptides from proteins) is a rapid and efficient method for species identification, which requires little material and provide results on processed and degraded material. Recent studies of ancient marine mammals’ remains has used collagen peptides in bones and skins for species identification. Here we demonstrate the application of peptide mass fingerprinting in hair and baleen; both materials are made of alpha-keratins. Baleen, or whalebone, has been harvested for thousands of years from Mysticeti whales. It was appreciated for its horn-like, flexible properties and used for tools and cultural objects. Baleen constitutes a rich source of biomolecular information with potential to contribute to studies of conservation and the exploitation of Mysticeti whales in past and recent times. We examined baleen from ten different species of whales and determined specific molecular markers for all species. The methodology was used to successfully identify baleen scraps from an archaeological assemblage from Labrador that span up to 1500 years of aboriginal whaling. Hair remains from these sites were also identified to species from a build database of keratin markers.

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Molecular Markers in Keratins from Hair and Baleen for Species Identification of Archaeological Artefacts. Caroline Solazzo, William Fitzhugh, Susan Kaplan, Charles Potter, Jolon Dyer. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429799)

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Baleen Hair keratin

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -178.41; min lat: 62.104 ; max long: 178.77; max lat: 83.52 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15371