December 5, 2023

Ancient Woman’s DNA Recovered From 20,000-Year-Old Deer Tooth Pendant

A worldwide research team led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has for the very first time effectively separated ancient human DNA from a Paleolithic artifact: a pierced deer tooth discovered in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. To preserve the stability of the artifact, they established a brand-new, non-destructive approach for separating DNA from ancient bones and teeth. In some cases it was possible to recognize DNA from the animals from which the artifacts were made, the vast bulk of the DNA acquired came from the people who had actually dealt with the artifacts during or after excavation. From this, the geneticists in Leipzig isolated not just the DNA from the animal itself, a wapiti deer, however likewise large amounts of ancient human DNA. “The quantity of human DNA we recuperated from the pendant was extraordinary,” states Elena Essel, “practically as if we had actually sampled a human tooth.”

A brand-new DNA extraction method
Before the team might work with genuine artifacts, they initially needed to ensure that the valuable items would not be damaged. “The surface structure of Paleolithic bone and tooth artifacts supplies crucial information about their production and usage. Preserving the integrity of the artifacts, consisting of microstructures on their surface, was a top concern” says Marie Soressi, an archaeologist from the University of Leiden who monitored the work together with Matthias Meyer, a Max Planck geneticist.
The group evaluated the impact of different chemicals on the surface area structure of archaeological bone and tooth pieces and developed a non-destructive phosphate-based method for DNA extraction. “One could say we have actually created a washing maker for ancient artifacts within our clean lab,” describes Elena Essel, the lead author of the research study who developed the method. “By washing the artifacts at temperatures of up to 90 ° C, we are able to extract DNA from the wash waters, while keeping the artifacts intact.”
The pierced deer tooth discovered from Denisova Cave before DNA extraction. Credit: © Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Early obstacles
The group first applied the approach to a set of artifacts from the French cave Quinçay excavated back in the 1970s to 1990s. In some cases it was possible to recognize DNA from the animals from which the artifacts were made, the vast majority of the DNA gotten came from the individuals who had actually dealt with the artifacts throughout or after excavation. This made it difficult to identify ancient human DNA.
To get rid of the issue of contemporary human contamination, the researchers then focused on material that had actually been freshly excavated utilizing gloves and face masks and put into clean plastic bags with sediment still connected. Three tooth pendants from Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria, home to the earliest securely dated contemporary human beings in Europe, revealed significantly lower levels of modern-day DNA contamination; however, no ancient human DNA might be recognized in these samples.
The pierced deer tooth discovered from Denisova Cave after DNA extraction. Credit: © Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
A pendant from Denisova Cave
From this, the geneticists in Leipzig separated not just the DNA from the animal itself, a wapiti deer, but likewise big amounts of ancient human DNA. “The quantity of human DNA we recovered from the pendant was extraordinary,” says Elena Essel, “almost as if we had actually tested a human tooth.”
Excavation works in the South Chamber of Denisova Cave in 2019. Credit: © Sergey Zelensky
Based on the analysis of mitochondrial DNA, the small part of the genome that is specifically acquired from the mom to their children, the scientists concluded that the majority of the DNA likely originated from a single human individual. Using the wapiti and human mitochondrial genomes they were able to estimate the age of the pendant at 19,000 to 25,000 years, without tasting the valuable things for C14 dating.
In addition to mitochondrial DNA, the researchers likewise recovered a considerable fraction of the nuclear genome of its human owner. “Forensic scientists will not be surprised that human DNA can be separated from a things that has actually been managed a lot,” states Matthias Meyer, “however it is fantastic that this is still possible after 20,000 years.”
Leading view of the pierced deer tooth found from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. Credit: © Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
The scientists now want to apply their technique to many other things made from bone and teeth in the Stone Age to find out more about the genetic origins and sex of the individuals who made, utilized, or used them.
Recommendation: “Ancient human DNA recuperated from a Palaeolithic pendant” by Elena Essel, Elena I. Zavala, Ellen Schulz-Kornas, Maxim B. Kozlikin, Helen Fewlass, Benjamin Vernot, Michael V. Shunkov, Anatoly P. Derevianko, Katerina Douka, Ian Barnes, Marie-Cécile Soulier, Anna Schmidt, Merlin Szymanski, Tsenka Tsanova, Nikolay Sirakov, Elena Endarova, Shannon P. McPherron, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Janet Kelso, Svante Pääbo, Mateja Hajdinjak, Marie Soressi and Matthias Meyer, 3 May 2023, Nature.DOI: 10.1038/ s41586-023-06035-2.
Funding: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, French Ministry of Culture, Russian Science Foundation, NWO VICI award, H2020 European Research Council, Adolph C. and Mary Sprague Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science.

In order to straight connect cultural challenge specific individuals and hence acquire much deeper insights into Paleolithic societies, an international, interdisciplinary research group, led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, has actually established a novel, non-destructive approach for DNA isolation from bones and teeth. Although they are usually rarer than stone tools, the researchers focused specifically on artifacts made from skeletal components, due to the fact that these are more porous and are for that reason more likely to maintain DNA present in skin cells, sweat, and other body fluids.

Pierced deer tooth found from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia that yielded ancient human DNA. Credit: © Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Researchers from limit Planck Institute have successfully isolated ancient human DNA from a Paleolithic deer tooth pendant, paving the method for directly determining the users of artifacts from the deep past and getting deeper insights into Paleolithic societies.
A global research study group led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has for the very first time successfully isolated ancient human DNA from a Paleolithic artifact: a pierced deer tooth discovered in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. To maintain the integrity of the artifact, they developed a brand-new, non-destructive approach for separating DNA from ancient bones and teeth. From the DNA retrieved they were able to reconstruct an exact genetic profile of the lady who wore the pendant or used, as well as of the deer from which the tooth was taken. Hereditary dates acquired for the DNA from both the female and the deer reveal that the pendant was made in between 19,000 and 25,000 years earlier. The tooth remains fully undamaged after analysis, supplying testimony to a brand-new era in ancient DNA research study, in which it may become possible to straight determine the users of tools and ornaments produced in the deep past.
The entryway to Denisova Cave. Credit: © Richard G. Roberts
Artifacts made of stone, bones, or teeth supply essential insights into the subsistence strategies of early humans, their habits, and culture. Till now it has actually been tough to associate these artifacts to specific people, given that burials and serious goods were extremely rare in the Palaeolithic. This has actually limited the possibilities of reasoning about, for example, division of labor or the social roles of people throughout this duration.