The DNA of a Stone Age woman has been found on a piece of jewelry that is around 20,000 years old. Scientists say this is the first time genetic material has been used to find the carrier of an ancient object.
The scientists also used a new technique that didn’t require them to damage old materials, Leiden University reports. The results were published in the scientific journal Nature.
The DNA was on a pierced deer tooth, which probably hung around the woman’s neck as a pendant. It is impossible to deduce who exactly was the carrier. It seems to be genetically related to people from Siberia and the first inhabitants of the American continent.
To obtain the DNA, the researchers did not have to damage the ancient jewel. They immersed it in phosphate, which they made increasingly hot. At 90 degrees, the human DNA, which was deep in the tooth, was released.
Researchers now typically extract ancient DNA from small amounts of powder extracted from bones and teeth. The technique works well, but it also damages ancient finds.
Tooth found in eastern Russia
The pendant is made from the tooth of an elk, a kind of deer. The jewelry originates from the Ancient Stone Age, a period that began a few million years ago and ended around twelve thousand years ago around the last Ice Age. The first people who lived then used stones in their daily life, for example as a hand axe.
The decoration was found in the Denisova Cave, an important archaeological site in eastern Russia. Artifacts tens of thousands of years old have been discovered in and around the cave, including needles, ornaments and animal bones.
The researchers say it’s unlikely the DNA would later end up on the pendant. Archaeologists worked with gloves and masks during the excavations.
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