The use of ancient DNA has increased during the past two decades in several scientific disciplines. However, the underlying mechanisms of DNA degradation in bone tissue are poorly understood. Here we address the importance of hydroxyapatite and collagen for DNA preservation in bone. We used two series of bones and teeth, one set of modern experimentally degraded bovid bones and one set of ancient horse bones/teeth. From these samples, we measured crystallinity, DNA presence and extracted collagen. The mtDNA fragments, parts of cytochrome b and the D–loop were amplified and sequenced. Our results show that presence of DNA was strongly related to the crystallinity in the hydroxyapatite and to the amount of collagen. This suggests that the hypothesis that hydroxyapatite has a crucial role in DNA preservation in calcified tissue is valid; and hydroxyapatite and collagen can be used to indicate whether DNA is present in the material. This is what would be expected if DNA is adsorbed to and stabilized by hydroxyapatite in calcified tissue, and collagen is part of the complex system that preserves DNA in bone tissue. Further, since collagen is the preferred material for radiocarbon dating, such bones may be a starting–point for a DNA analysis.