The biological excavation findings remains for decades an unexploited source of information that could have been used to study the past and understand it better. Nowadays, however, the rapid technological advance allows the comprehensive sequencing (Next Generation Sequencing) of genetic material salvaged into ancient archaeological specimens. By utilizing novel methods of genomic analysis the Ancient DNA Lab is able to shed light into various anthropological, paleontological, archaeological, and historical events. The main scientific interests of the lab includes:

  • The study of the origin of human populations:

    • Human 1
    • Human 2
    • Human 3
    • Human 4
    • Human 5
    • Human 6


    Total genomic sequencing of ancient DNA from human excavation findings (bones and teeth) can provide unique information about the evolutionary history of humans, as well as about the origin and movements of past populations. Using appropriate bioinformatics tools, the Ancient DNA Lab focuses on the relationships amongst populations seeking genetic “signatures” that indicate specific demographic events.


  • Genetic identification of individuals and phenotype determination:

    • Population 1
    • Population 2
    • Population 3
    • Population 4


    At the individual level the lab performs a) identification of genetic sex, b) determination of phenotypic characteristics, such as the color of eyes and hair using computational tools (i.e. IrisPlex and HIrisPlex) that are based on detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), g) tracing of putative links between an observed skeletal pathology and a genetic disease based on locating disease-related polymorphisms in the genome δ) investigation of relatedness issues among individuals buried in the same or nearby tombs.


  • Reconstruction of the evolutionary history of animal species and species molecular identification:

    • Animal 1
    • Animal 2
    • Animal 3
    • Animal 4


    The study of biological remains of animals is considered one of the main research interests of the lab. The lab focus on the study of extinct species, such as the dwarf hippopotami of Cyprus and Crete and their genetic comparison, as well as with their contemporary descendants, the unravelling of the evolutionary history of extant animals via comparative genomic analysis between ancestor and descendant populations, and the study of animal domestication, including cattle and horses, as well as pets (i.e. dogs). Moreover, in cases of ancient findings of unknown species the lab contributes to the molecular identification of the species.


  • Investigation of diet habits of the past people:

    The archaeogenetic analysis of non-processed food remains (e.g. on ancient pottery or in amphoras) provides the means to identify the animal or plant species that was used or stored. This kind of knowledge is able to open a new “window” to study the diet and the trade of the past, as well as the progressive domestication of plant species. Ancient seeds like olive seeds or legumes found in archaeological excavations it is possible to contain evidence of genetic material, which can be used to reliably reconstruct the agriculture, the manufacturing, and the preservation of food products and commodities during the past.


  • Tracing of ancient pathogens:

      

    The study of ancient biological material can provide information concerning the existence and dispersal of specific microbial pathogens of the past (e.g. the plaque, the leprosy, and hepatitis B). This is achieved by analyzing these ancient DNA sequences that are obtained from ancient human remains, but do not belong to the human genome (i.e. bacteria, viruses) and comparing them with DNA sequences that belongs to known pathogens.

In the Ancient DNA Lab we are using strict protocols to analyze ancient biological material and we continuously developing new optimized wetlab protocols and bioinformatics pipelines. Our top priority is to securely acquire the maximum and at the same time the most reliable information from the priceless samples that we analyze.

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