Tooth in the spotlight: exploring the integration of archaeological and genetic data to build multidisciplinary narratives of the Past

Francesco D’ERRICO, Luc DOYON, João ZILHÃO & Jack BAKER

en Comptes Rendus Palevol 23 (2) - Pages 31-43

Published on 22 January 2024

The article addresses the challenges posed by the interdisciplinary collaboration that led to the recent Nature article presenting results of the extraction of ancient human DNA from a perforated deer tooth found in Denisova Cave. We provide a critical analysis of the contextual data that directly impacts the interpretation of the genetic data and the evaluation of the potential of the new DNA extraction technique for future studies. We discuss in greater detail Denisova, the only site that has produced truly exploitable palaeogenetic results. We highlight major unresolved dating inconsistencies at Denisova that need inquiry and explanation. We also emphasize the lack of an appropriate theoretical framework in the analysis of the tooth, of information on the lateralization, sex, age, perforation technique, wear, on the ochre residues, and the release of erroneous information on the associated faunal assemblage. We conclude that quality archaeological data and their sound evaluation should complement paleogenetic data to create unified, reliable, and verifiable narratives about human history.


Paleogenetics, beads, personal ornaments, Denisova Cave, Upper Palaeolithic, 14C dating

Download full article in PDF format Order a reprint