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DNA preservation in archaeological dental calculus and dentine

Author(s): Allison Mann ; Kirsten Ziesemer ; Krithivasan Sankaranarayanan ; Corinne Hofman ; Christina Warinner

Year: 2017

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Ancient DNA provides unique insights into past human behavior, health, and evolution. Skeletal tissues (bone and dentine) and microbiome remains (dental calculus and paleofeces) can be rich sources of ancient biomolecules; however, inconsistent DNA preservation and variable environmental contamination pose major challenges in recovering authentic ancient DNA. Recent studies have suggested that dental calculus may provide a better preservation environment for ancient DNA than other skeletal tissues, but this hypothesis has not yet been systematically tested. In this study, we analyze the preservation of microbial and human DNA in twelve paired dental calculus and dentine samples from six archaeological sites (spanning 2950 BCE to 1900 CE) using a high-throughput metagenomics approach. We find that endogenous microbial DNA is typically more abundant and better preserved in dental calculus than in dentine, and we report differences in DNA preservation between oral-associated bacteria and archaea. By contrast, human DNA is typically more abundant and longer in length in dentine than in dental calculus, but there is also a higher rate of cytosine deamination damage in dentine, suggesting greater vulnerability to single-stranded DNA generative processes.

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DNA preservation in archaeological dental calculus and dentine. Allison Mann, Kirsten Ziesemer, Krithivasan Sankaranarayanan, Corinne Hofman, Christina Warinner. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430012)


ancient DNA

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16165

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America