Sending samples

Brief sampling guide of (pre-)historic specimen for ancient DNA analysis

The generation of ancient DNA sequence data starts with careful sampling of suitable material, which guarantees the economic use of resources and valuable samples. If time allows and logistically possible, we prefer carrying out the sampling ourselves This has to do with the fact that assessing the preservation of samples is a purely subjective matter, and we do have the expertise in selecting samples that is suitable for ancient DNA analysis based on many years of experience. If not possible, we suggest you follow these short guidelines below.

If possible, wear disposable gloves and a face mask.

Prepare plastic bags of suitable sizes and label the outside with relevant information (sample ID, type of sample, site/provenance, date and contact (optional).

Right pars petrosa and temporal bone

Select petrous portion of the skull.

It has been empirically shown that the petrosal part of the temporal bone (which forms the inner ear and base of the skull) preserves high amounts of human DNA. In many cases, the skull is fragmented, so it is straight forward to select the part of the temporal bone which has he petrous portion attached. Will we subsample in the ancient DNA lab under controlled conditions, and there is no need to cut it off. The drilling will result in a small hole, but we will keep this as minimally invasive as possible. If the skull is intact, please consult us about alternative sampling. Alternatively, the cortical layers of long bones can also contain sufficient DNA.

Intact molar

Select intact tooth.

As second sample we prefer well preserved teeth as these maximize the chance of retrieving additional metagenomic information, such as DNA from blood-borne pathogens. Please select an intact tooth, preferably a molar that has no cracks, closed roots and retains the ivory glance. The tooth will be subsampled inside the lab. We will carefully cut off the crown and then drill out the inside of the pulp chamber. The tooth can be reconstructed and inserted back into the jawbone for e.g. exhibitions or isotope studies.

Select dental calculus. Thirdly, if available choose a tooth that also contains dental calculus (‘fossilized plaque’). Please do not remove the calculus, this can be done inside the laboratory under controlled conditions.

Fill in the sample information spreadsheet (Sample_to_MPISHH.xlsx).

Store safely and under cool conditions until shipping to this address:

Dr Wolfgang Haak
Department of Archaeogenetics
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10
07745 Jena, Germany

Thank you for your cooperation. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.