Scientists have successfully extracted human DNA from a Paleolithic pendant for the first time using a nondestructive method.
The pendant, a pierced deer tooth measuring approximately 0.79 inches (2 centimeters) long, was discovered in 2019 inside Denisova Cave in southern Siberia, which is famous for housing Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans.
The pendant is further evidence of the cave’s human occupation.
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The researchers used a newly developed technique that involved submerging the artifact into a buffer bath of sodium phosphate to release the ancient DNA gradually without damaging the artifact’s integrity.
Teeth are highly porous, making them a good candidate for retaining traces of DNA, such as from skin cells or sweat.
The researchers were able to determine that both the woman and the deer, a species of elk known as wapiti, lived sometime between 19,000 and 25,000 years ago and that the woman was of Siberian heritage.
The researchers believe this new DNA extraction method could be used on other ancient artifacts, including tools and ornaments, and potentially extract DNA from all types of artifacts.
However, it’s important for archaeologists to wear proper equipment during excavations to avoid cross-contamination from their own DNA.
Study author Elena Essel thinks that the amount of human DNA recovered from this method was “mind-blowing” and exceeded her expectations.
Further examinations are needed to determine the source of the DNA.
Source Live Science