How to Choose Samples for aDNA: Bioarchaeological Best Practices for Sampling Human Remains

Author(s): Elizabeth Sawchuk; Mary Prendergast

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Ancient DNA in Service of Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Recent methodological advances have rapidly increased the pace and scale of ancient DNA (aDNA) studies, prompting widespread sampling in museum collections and raising ethical concerns about inter-lab competition, treatment of human remains, and the research questions being addressed. Another key issue is selection of material that will be destroyed for this research. Few osteological manuals cover aDNA sampling, and those that do focus on how to identify and handle elements with probable aDNA preservation, rather than which bones should be used. Human samples should be documented prior to any destructive analyses, but few texts specify how or consider that some methods (e.g., casting) may be incompatible with aDNA protocols. Existing resources focus on how to sample instead of what samples should be sacrificed. This creates a climate in which morphologically-informative elements like petrous pyramids and teeth are preferentially destroyed for aDNA, often with minimal documentation and from understudied collections. Here we suggest some simple rules for choosing human remains for aDNA research that balance laboratory needs with preserving material for future study. We hope that this will lead to the adoption of best practices among archaeologists, geneticists, and others, paving the way for more integrated research on archaeological human remains.

Cite this Record

How to Choose Samples for aDNA: Bioarchaeological Best Practices for Sampling Human Remains. Elizabeth Sawchuk, Mary Prendergast. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 452235)


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Abstract Id(s): 23552