• forensic science;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • forensic anthropology;
  • skeletal remains;
  • contamination;
  • ancient DNA


The Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory reports the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences of over 800 skeletal samples a year for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command–Central Identification Laboratory. These sequences are generated from degraded skeletal remains that are presumed to belong to U.S. service members missing from past military conflicts. In the laboratory, it is possible to control for contamination of remains; however, in the field, it can be difficult to prevent modern DNA from being transferred to skeletal elements and being carried forward through the analysis process. Four such cases are described here along with the controls in place in the laboratory to eliminate the possibility of the exogenous DNA being reported as authentic. In each case, the controls implemented by the laboratories prevented the false reporting of contaminant exogenous DNA from remains that were either faunal or human, but lacked endogenous DNA.