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Inferring ancient human kinship structure and microbial evolution using paleogenetics

The application of paleogenetics can provide novel insights into human and microbial evolutionary history. During the course of my PhD project, I aim to use ancient DNA to infer human kinship structures and population genetics, extending the analysis to the reconstruction of the human microbiome and human-associated pathogens. By using next generation sequencing, target-enrichment techniques and bioinformatical pipelines designed for ancient genetic data, I will analyse human and microbial DNA from ancient human remains.

This project is made up of three parts. Firstly, around 30 individuals from a 7000-year-old mass grave in Talheim, Germany, will be analysed to infer possible familiar relationships, as well as their genetic affinities and population genetics. Secondly, metagenomic analysis of ancient dental calculus from 17th century Trentino/Alto Adige individuals will be performed. Together with our collaborators in Trento, the ancient microbial datasets will be compared to modern dental calculus in the same area, in order to discern human oral microbiome evolution. With the available anthropological data, it will also be possible to compare ancient healthy and non-healthy oral flora. Thirdly, specific pathogens such as Yersina pestis (the causative agent of the plague) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis from ancient human remains throughout northern Italy and Europe will be studied to reconstruct their evolutionary and epidemiological history. 

PERIOD: 06.11.2017 - 05.11.2020


TEAM: Zink Albert, Wurst Christina, Paladin Alice, Coia Valentina


  • University of Trento, Centre for Integrative Biology
  • University of Tuebingen, Urgeschichte und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, Abt. Paläogenetik, , Baden-Württemberg
  • Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Szeged, Dugonics Ter, Szeged, Hungary

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