Bridging Archaeology and Genetics

  • Ophélie Lebrasseur
  • Hannah Ryan
  • Cinthia Abbona
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


With the development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the 1980s, the application of molecular methods to archaeological questions has seen a rapid expansion in the last three decades, addressing major research topics including human origins and migrations, domestication and chronology. The recent introduction of next-generation sequencing (NGS) has revolutionised the field, allowing for a larger amount of data to be generated quickly and at ever-decreasing costs. With such techniques now available, it is crucial for a clear and comprehensive dialogue to be established between archaeologists and geneticists. In the following paper, we first review the history of archaeogenetics before addressing some of the major misconceptions that remain commonly widespread across audiences. These include the misconception that genetics can reconstruct full phenotypes or that modern populations can be solely used to retrace a species’ origin or domestication. After exploring the current potential of genetics applied to archaeology through successful case studies, we highlight practical considerations when undertaking archaeogenetic research including sample status and selecting adequate genetic markers and methods. Finally, we suggest ways of bridging the gap between both disciplines so as to allow better collaborations in the future.


Ancient DNA Modern DNA Archaeology mtDNA NGS Museum sampling 



The authors would like to thank Davina Craps, James Haile, Rachel Hopkins, Greger Larson and Anna Linderholm for their helpful comments and Evangelia Pişkin and Marta Bartkowiak for having provided us with the opportunity to present and publish this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ophélie Lebrasseur
    • 1
  • Hannah Ryan
    • 1
  • Cinthia Abbona
    • 2
  1. 1.Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network, School of ArchaeologyOxfordUK
  2. 2.Museo de Historia Natural de San RafaelSan RafaelArgentina

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