The Application of next generation sequencing to Archaeology

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  • Project duration: September 2013 - August 2016
  • Project status:
  • Funding:
    Internal funding EURAC (Project)
  • Total project budget: €180,000.00

The aim of this PhD project is to apply NGS (next generation sequencing) techniques to archaeological samples to retrieve biological information about individuals that would be difficult or impossible using PCR based approaches. Ancient DNA will be sequenced using techniques that continue to develop in the field of biological archaeology. Often ancient DNA is too fragmented or degraded for conventional analysis. Using NGS it is possible to sequence all the DNA present in an unbiased fashion and identify the presence of pathogen specific genotypes. The student aims to apply the latest improvements in the field of palaeogenetics to archaeological speciens. In the last decade, sequencing and computing technologies have developed to an extent that ancient DNA can be affordably and rapidly analysed. High throughput sequencing provides increased statistical weight to results allowing confident inferences to be made about the degree of contamination, degradation and even the age of the DNA. This has also expanded the range of archaeological samples that can be analysed. The researcher is involved in several projects analysing ancient DNA. The researcher is the primary researcher in three ongoing case studies: analysis of the Iceman’s clothing, metagenomic analysis of calculus from teeth and population genetics of an ancient gravesite in southern Germany.

Ancient genome-wide analyses infer kinship structure in an Early Medieval Alemannic graveyard
O'Sullivan N, Posth C, Coia V, Schuenemann VJ, Price TD, Wahl J, Pinhasi R, Zink A, Krause J, Maixner F (2018)
Journal article
Science Advances

Ötzis Ledererbe - Eine Mitochondrienanalyse von Ötzis Kleidung gibt Aufschluss über die tierischen Quellen zur Lederherstellung der Kupferzeit
Maixner F, O'Sullivan N, Zink A (2016)
Journal article

A whole mitochondria analysis of the Tyrolean Iceman's leather provides insights into the animal sources of Copper Age clothing
O'Sullivan N, Teasdale M, Mattiangeli V, Maixner F, Pinhasi R, Bradley D, Zink A (2016)
Journal article
Scientific Reports

More information: ...

University College Dublin, Conway Institute
Molecular population genetics, Smurfit Institute, Trinity College
University of Tuebingen, Urgeschichte und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, Abt. Paläogenetik, , Baden-Württemberg
Project Team
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Niall James O'Sullivan

Project Manager


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Development and centralization of the laboratory infrastructures of the Institute for Mummy Studies ...

Duration: December 2017 - December 2021Funding:
FESR (EU funding / Project)

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