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Ancient DNA dating

Ancient DNA dating from their ancient sequences

Radiocarbon dating is the gold-standard in archaeology to estimate the age of skeletons, a key to studying their origins. Half of all published ancient human genomes lack reliable and direct dates. In other words, while scientists spend a lot of time and resources digging, finding skeletons, extracting the ancient DNA (aDNA) from their bones, sequencing the aDNA, and analyzing it – in half of the cases there is very little that can be said about it since it is unclear when it is from. Unfortunately, attempts to do so anyway results in obscure and contradictory reports.

An illustration showing that 50 % of the samples do no have a direct dating estimation.

We developed Temporal Population Structure (TPS), the first DNA-based dating method for ancient genomes ranging from the Upper Palaeolithic to modern-day samples and applied it to ~1000 ancient Eurasians. TPS analytical framework is based on a newly discovered group of markers, which we termed Time Informative Markers (TIMs). These markers vary over time, not geography. 

The predictions of our tool were on par with radiocarbon-dated skeletons and correctly account for kin relationships, surpassing radiocarbon dates. We TPS-dated hundreds of poorly dated Eurasian samples, resolved conflicts in the literature, and shed new light on disputed findings. We are interested in applying TPS to newly sequenced genomes with poor dating and continue to improve the methodology and increase its accuracy.


  1. Esposito U, Holland G, Alshehab G, Dobre AM, Pirooznia M, Brimacombe CS, Elhaik E: A genomic dating tool for ancient genomes resolves the origins of hundreds of Eurasian genomes. bioRxiv 2019:828962.
  2. Morozova I, Flegontov P, Mikheyev AS, Bruskin S, Asgharian H, Ponomarenko P, Klyuchnikov V, ArunKumar G, Prokhortchouk E, Gankin Y et al: Toward high-resolution population genomics using archaeological samples. DNA Res 2016, 23(4):295-310
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