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Keywords:

  • ancient DNA;
  • Bronze Age;
  • cremated bone;
  • hybridization probing;
  • polymerase chain reaction

Abstract

The discovery of polymeric DNA in charred wheat grains and other burnt plant remains prompted us to examine a set of cremated bones for the presence of ancient DNA. Extracts of cremated bones from an early Bronze Age cemetery cairn were analysed by hybridization probing and the polymerase chain reaction. Hybridization with two probes targeting human DNA resulted in strong positive signals. Polymerase chain reactions directed at a multicopy sequence in human nuclear DNA were successful, extracts of five burials giving amplification products of the expected size. Exploitation of ancient DNA in cremated bones could be of great value in archaeology as it may enable information pertaining to sex and kinship to be obtained from fragmented material.