Fascinating ancient DNA discoveries appear in the news nearly every few weeks, with unexpected findings on prehistoric migrations, past kinship networks, and admixture with extinct hominins. This module will give you the tools to move beyond the media reports and evaluate the “palaeogenomic” literature for yourself. By discussing how researchers plan and undertake genetic studies, you will gain a new perspective on what could be done in the future, potentially helping shape this burgeoning line of study.
Students have commented the module gives an opportunity to discuss exciting new publications and develop their scientific fluency.
|A||Autumn Term 2020-21|
Special Topics focus upon the archaeology of a well defined time, space or theme and the modules seek to allow students, in small groups, to focus upon primary source material and to apply to it the theoretical and thematic perspectives learned over your first and second years. The aim is to facilitate the acquisition of deeper knowledge of one aspect of the past than has been possible in more general courses.
Specifically this module aims:
To explain key methods utilised in the study of ancient DNA
To explore challenges of ancient DNA research, including DNA damage and contamination
To consider how these increasingly sophisticated methodologies can be integrated with other evidence to address major questions in archaeology
By the end of the module, students will be able to:
In order for everyone to be familiar with the terminology and common methodologies, we will start with a broad introduction to DNA and genetics. Once that foundation is established, we will evaluate an ancient DNA publication, revealing its strengths and weaknesses, and helping you understand how to identify the key findings of a study. We will then take a thematic approach focused on major ancient DNA research areas, including sex identification, kinship in cemeteries, human evolution, population migration, plant and animal domestication, and disease. For each topic, we will explore case studies, showing how different threads of the research have developed in recent years. Throughout the module we will discuss and debate the ethical implications of these diverse studies.
Content warning: the lectures for this module contain images of human skeletal material, preserved human flesh, and disease symptoms.
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Formative: The marker will share written feedback with you in a timetabled one-to-one meeting and you will have the opportunity to ask further questions about how to improve your work before your summative assessment. If you are unable to attend the feedback session, your tutor will share the formative feedback with you digitally.
Summative: Written feedback sheets will be uploaded to your e:vision account (your personal University of York online services account) within 20 working days of the submission deadline, along with your overall mark for the module. If you have any questions about your mark and/or your written feedback, you will be able to sign up for office hours with the marker.
Brown, T.A. & Brown, K. (2011) DNA. Biomolecular Archaeology, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 9–37.
Bramanti, B. et al. (2009) Genetic Discontinuity Between Local Hunter-Gatherers and Central Europe’s First Farmers. Science 326: 137–140.
Detailed reading for the module will be available via YorkShare (the University's virtual learning environment). When you have enrolled on a module, you will be able to access the full reading list.