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aDNA Lab

Dr. Elena Nikulina

► Picture gallery of the new aDNA Lab


The ZBSA has one of the most extensive collections of prehistoric and historic animal bones in Central and Northern Europe. In total, the collection comprises about one million finds which, according to find site, date from Late Glacial to Early Modern times. These bones are of great significance relative to the settlement and cultural history of Northern Central Europe and Scandinavia. In the coming years they will be subjected to extensive investigation with regard to the ancient DNA contained within them. Molecular-biological investigations of this kind make it possible to gain information concerning population structure, migration and trading links. To this end, a permanent laboratory for the genetic analysis of sub-fossil remains of wild and domesticated animals will be established at the ZBSA. This will be the first molecular-genetics laboratory in Germany solely and specifically dealing with investigations of ancient animal DNA from archaeological contexts. With the founding of this laboratory, an important gap in the German research landscape will be closed. The interest already expressed by several foreign universities in co-operating closely with the planned laboratory demonstrates, even at this preliminary stage, the supra-regional importance of the project.

Archaeo-genetics research at the ZBSA will be involved in clarification of archaeological-historical questions relevant to the humanities. The significance of trade in animals and animal products in prehistoric and early historic times and developments in the game fauna will form part of this work. Moreover, in the light of museum links with the Schleswig-Holsteinischen Landesmuseum at the same location, it is proposed to involve the laboratory in schools education program.

The analysis of genetic material contained within prehistoric and early historical animal bones is a method of great appeal and immense potential relative to archaeological and historical research. No other method provides such a direct insight into the development of domestic livestock and changes in the population of wild animals. Decoding of the origin and course of animal migrations and their connections with human migrations will similarly be addressed, as will establishment of the date and duration of particular events such as domestication sequences or fluctuations in animal populations as a result of changes in the environment or trade links.

These questions involve much more than presentation of the zoological remains stored at the ZBSA which have, in previous decades, already been examined scientifically and published from a morpho-metrical point of view. The archaeo-genetic analyses build on the already available morpho-metric investigations and findings and broaden these substantially, enabling conclusions to be drawn concerning relationships within domestic livestock and thereby providing information concerning the intensity and social characteristics of exchange processes. Furthermore, a connection between this information and data obtained from the analysis of strontium isotopes makes it possible to draw a much more detailed picture of local and regional trade links and migration routes than otherwise would be possible using conventional methods.

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Aktueller Hinweis!

Das Zentrum für Baltische und Skandinavische Archäologie arbeitet aufgrund der Corona-Krise ab dem 17.3.2020 überwiegend im Homeoffice. Unter den bekannten Mailadressen sind die Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter erreichbar.

Daher haben auch Gastwissenschaftler zur Zeit keinen Zugang zu unseren Räumlichkeiten. Bitte wenden Sie sich zu gegebener Zeit an die bekannten Ansprechpartner.

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From 17/3/2020 the staff of the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology will be mainly working from home due to the Corona crisis. The employees can be reached under the known email addresses.

For this reason, guest researchers do currently not have access to our facilities. Please get in touch with the known contact persons in due course.

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