Ancient DNA studies focus on retrieving genetic information from archeological remains such as bones, teeth and hair.
This discipline has greatly advanced in recent years due to the Next Generation Sequencing techniques. Today, genomic information can be recovered from specimens as old as 700 000 years, as opposed to mainly mitochondrial DNA or a handful of single nuclear DNA positions, the marker of choice a decade ago.
DNA from archaeological remains is typically fragmented, present in only small amounts and chemically damaged. The preservation of DNA depends on the environmental conditions as well as the type of material analyzed. Typically DNA is better preserved in cold conditions and in soil that has a neutral of alkaline pH. The work is performed in a dedicated ancient DNA clean-room facility equipped with UV lights and positive pressure air-flow through HEPA-filters and the researchers and technical staff wearing protective overalls, face masks and gloves. The specimens are documented and meticulously cleaned, DNA is extracted and prepared for Next Generation Sequencing applications using various specialized molecular techniques.