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The Science of Roman HistoryBiology, Climate, and the Future of the Past$
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Walter Scheidel

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691195988

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691195988.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Ancient DNA

Ancient DNA

(p.205) Chapter Six Ancient DNA
The Science of Roman History

Noreen Tuross

Michael G. Campana

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis has helped reconstruct ancient history. It focuses in particular on cases investigating Roman history. History leaves traces in the human genome as well as those of pathogens and domesticates. While much can be gleaned from the genetic fossils preserved in extant genomes, genomes are palimpsests, with more recent events overwriting previous ones in part. The study of aDNA—DNA preserved in archaeological, paleontological, and museum sources—permits investigations into the genome before and after historic events and observations into how it evolves in real time. The field of aDNA also has a palimpsestic nature in which older results are not only extended and revised, but totally discarded due to rapid technological advances. The chapter briefly describes biochemistry of ancient DNA and the history of its research. Through several key case studies, it shows the potential for aDNA research to clarify the course of ancient history, and also highlights some of its weaknesses and limitations.

Keywords:   ancient DNA, ancient history, human genome, biochemistry, DNA analysis, DNA research, Roman history

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