Tom and Katerina went to Copenhagen to sample material being worked on in the Centre for GeoGenetics from a key French site we are currently dating. The crucial issue with DNA sampling is of course contamination, so we had to suit up in coveralls, facemasks, double-gloves, lab shoes etc to protect the human bones from any contamination. For radiocarbon dating the contamination issue is a challenge but its not nearly as significant as it is for human DNA work where recovered sequences are often short, degraded fragments of DNA and where it is important to avoid modern DNA coming in to the samples.
We suited up and spent several hours carefully drilling powder from the bones in the clean labs. After that Tom gave a talk to the DNA group on the work undertaken at the ORAU previously on the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic and the importance of accuracy AMS dating, and the future work of PalaeoChron, then we had a series of meetings with different colleagues regarding current and future projects.
The Centre for GeoGenetics is located in the Natural History Museum of Denmark, and run by Prof. Eske Willerslev (rt). They are at the forefront of work in the field of ancient human DNA, led by Eske, Tom Gilbert and Ludovic Orlando, among many others. We collaborate with some of the group in work where radiocarbon chronologies are required. The Centre is a bustling and active research facility with several very interesting projects and around 70 researchers and students. The Centre has produced several groundbreaking studies over the last few years, including the sequencing of PalaeoIndian remains from the Anzick specimen, as well as the important Palaeolithic burials of Kostenki XIV and Mal’ta, and the decoding of the Australian aboriginal genome. In the picture above is the Nature cover of the first complete ancient human genome.