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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Research project: Environmental and ancient sedimentary DNA at archaeological sites in Alaska (EAGER)

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In this pilot study, we are investigating whether we can extract DNA from sediments linked to archaeological sites and from nearby lakes. We are particularly interested in identifying the past presence of plants and animals that were important resources for early human populations in Alaska.

Start date: Jul 2019
End date: Dec 2020

Collaborative award with University of Alaska and University of Tromso

In interior Alaska, along the Tanana, one of the region’s largest rivers, are some of the earliest sites of human occupation in the New World. People migrating from Asia across the Bering Land Bridge arrived about 14,000 years ago. The vast floodplain must have been rich in resources—fish, game and food plants. It is possible to reconstruct the environment at this time using radiocarbon dating and a range of techniques, including the analysis of bone, fossil plants and pollen found at or near archaeological sites. In this pilot project, funded by the US National Science Foundation and working with researchers from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, we are investigating whether it is feasible to use the newly developed technique of ancient DNA on such sites. We are examining material taken from archaeological sites for mammal and plant DNA. At a lake close to a site that features one of the oldest recorded human burials, we have obtained a record from the lake sediments of ancient DNA that provides a detailed record of the plants that were growing in the surrounding landscape. We are currently examining the lake sediments for fish DNA and biomarkers that indicate human presence.

Related research groups

Landscape Dynamics and Ecology (LDE)
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