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Human skeleton found on famed Antikythera shipwreck

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Raychel
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« on: September 19, 2016, 11:02:38 pm »



A partial skull, with three teeth, is among the human remains found at the Antikythera wreck.

Within days of the find, Foley invited Schroeder, an expert in ancient-DNA analysis from the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, to assess whether genetic material might be extracted from the bones. On his way to Antikythera, Schroeder was doubtful. But as he removes the bones from their bags he is pleasantly surprised. The material is a little chalky, but overall looks well preserved. “It doesn’t look like bone that’s 2,000 years old,” he says. Then, sifting through several large pieces of skull, he finds both petrous bones — dense nuggets behind the ear that preserve DNA better than other parts of the skeleton or the teeth. “It’s amazing you guys found that,” Schroeder says. “If there’s any DNA, then from what we know, it’ll be there.”

Schroeder agrees to go ahead with DNA extraction when permission is granted by the Greek authorities. It would take about a week to find out whether the sample contains any DNA, he says: then perhaps a couple of months to sequence it and analyse the results.

For Schroeder, the discovery gives him the chance to push the boundaries of ancient-DNA studies. So far, most have been conducted on samples from cold climates such as northern Europe. “I’ve been trying to push the application of ancient DNA into environments where people don’t usually look for DNA,” he says. (He was part of a team that last year published the first Mediterranean ancient genome, of a Neolithic individual from Spain2.)
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