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Keywords:

  • ancient DNA;
  • Iceland;
  • Faeroe Islands;
  • taphonomy;
  • climate

ABSTRACT

Current models of DNA degradation and previous research on Icelandic human skeletons predict ancient DNA preservation in the Norse North Atlantic faunal remains to be excellent. In contrast, we found that DNA preservation in Viking-Age pig remains was poor. We posit that this discrepancy in DNA survival between human and faunal remains is due to differing taphonomies. Our results highlight that DNA degradation is strongly dictated by micro-environmental taphonomic processes even in regions where the climate is conducive to DNA survival. Due to these differences, DNA preservation in animal remains may not be suitable proxies for DNA preservation in associated human remains. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.