Thursday, May 18, 2023

A Prehistoric Pendant Tells All

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Archeology, Culture, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler

In a short article in Nature News (May 4 2023) by Elissa Welles writes about the composition of a pre-historic pendant that might have been worn as a necklace and the sex of the person who might have made/worn it.  She describes some of the details.

Pendant Composition. "Mitochondrial DNA — which is handed down from mother to offspring — extracted from the pendant show that the object is roughly 19,000 to 25,000 years old and that the tooth belonged to a wapiti, also known as an elk (Cervus canadensis)."

The Person. "Analysis of nuclear DNA from the ornament suggests that it had been made or worn by a female Homo sapiens whose genetic make-up resembles that of north Eurasian individuals who lived around the same time but were previously known only from remains found farther east in Siberia."

Study co-author Elena Essel adds a nice human touch finding it "comforting that humans living so long ago took the time and effort to make jewellery to adorn themselves. 'It’s so special for humankind that despite all odds, you have the hardest life on Earth, but you still try to seek the beauty in life.'" 
Here is the original paper with a photograph of the pendant which shows" the workflow of the gradual, non-destructive DNA extraction method (and) "before and after...DNA extraction." The abstract is the briefest of summaries of the investigation and findings. The paper includes a technical discussion of studying freshly excavated artifacts which focuses on DNA contamination in analysis of data extracted from them.

You can view another photograph of the pendant and a short discussion from Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of America.

DNA analysis has added a powerful tool to so many disciplines: evolutionary biology and archeology are two.

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