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Archaeologists See Big Promise In Going Molecular

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Science  01 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6000, pp. 28-29
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6000.28

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Last month's International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology—a biennial meeting devoted to studies of isotopes and DNA in ancient biological materials—revealed that ancient DNA research is poised to undergo a new kind of growth spurt. Flooded with data from next-generation sequencing technologies, researchers are now exploring a host of new applications and addressing an ever-wider circle of questions about ancient ecologies, human behavior, and lifestyle. They're probing ancient medical practices by extracting DNA from Roman herbs, for example. Some are moving beyond isotopes and DNA to probe new classes of ancient molecules, using ancient RNA to study gene activity and identifying ancient species with bits of collagen from fossil bones.