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The University of Southampton
Archaeology Part of Humanities

Finding hominin bones from the Palaeolithic using collagen peptide mass fingerprinting (ZooMS) Seminar

12:15 - 13:00
31 October 2018
John Wymer Lab Building 65a Faculty of Arts and Humanities Avenue Campus University of Southampton

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Cystal El Safadi at .

Event details

Part of the Archaeology Seminar Series


Ancient DNA sequencing has shed significant light upon our knowledge of archaic and modern humans during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. Many Palaeolithic sites contain large numbers of bones, but due to the combination of post-depositional influences and carnivore processing of bone remains, many of them lack the diagnostic features required for identification of bone to specific taxon. Human remains dating to this period are, therefore, very rare. As part of my PalaeoChron research project, we have been applying a method of collagen fingerprinting to screen Palaeolithic bone fragments to identify the species/taxon of the bone, and importantly, to identify bone which has characteristic unique human peptides. The method utilizes mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF-ToF) to produce a spectrum of peptide masses. Different species disclose small differences in the sequence of these peptides that enable them to be identified to genus and sometimes species level.

We have screened thousands of unidentifiable bone fragments from the Palaeolithic archaeological sites of Denisova Cave (Russia), El Castillo (Spain), Castelcivita, Riparo del Broion (Italy) and Vindija Cave (Croatia). We carried out DNA sequencing of human bone fragments that we found.

I will discuss results from Denisova Cave primarily in this talk. Collagen fingerprinting has immense potential for identifying hominin remains in highly fragmentary archaeological assemblages. Coupled with DNA analysis and direct dating, this method can be widely applied to previously excavated archaeological materials.

Speaker information

Professor Tom Higham , University of Oxford. Director, Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU)

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