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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Charlotte Roberts

Roberts, C.A. & Ingham, S. (2008). Using ancient DNA analysis in palaeopathology: a critical analysis of published papers with recommendations for future work. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 18(6): 600-613.

Author(s) from Durham


Despite an observable increase in the number of studies using ancient DNA analysis to diagnose disease in human remains, there remain issues to be addressed about the quality of the resulting publications. This paper describes the qualitative analysis of published papers that describe the detection of pathogenic DNA in human skeletal and mummified remains from archaeological sites. Its ultimate goal is to provide an overview of the main problematic issues in relationship to standards developed in molecular biology and to make recommendations for future work. Sixty-five papers published between 1993 and 2006 were surveyed and the quality of each was assessed using 15 criteria. Interesting results emerged. Of particular note was the high number of papers that did not acknowledge the use of even basic contamination control (90%) or procedures to validate results independently (85%). This study illustrates that attention to contamination control and authentication of results is needed in future research, if confidence in aDNA analysis in palaeopathology is to be increased. Additionally, methods of analysis must be described in published papers to ensure transparency in processes utilised to generate the data.