Recently, palaeogenetics encountered enormous success when parts of the nuclear genomes of mammoth and Neanderthal man were analysed. Their bones, however, had been preserved in environments favourable to DNA preservation, i.e., permafrost regions and caves in temperate regions. Few studies have tackled archaeological bones from hot, arid regions, although they bear great significance for the study of evolution of humans and the precursors of modern societies. According to archaeological evidence, a key event in neolithisation, the domestication of cattle, took place around 10,000 years ago in Southwest Asia. Genetic data from prehistoric bovine bones preserved in this region might shed light on this process, but the palaeogenetic approach has been hampered by poor DNA preservation. Here, I discuss various aspects of DNA preservation in fossils and the production of reliable palaeogenetic data and present methodological improvements that have enabled us to shed light on the process of cattle domestication in Southwest Asia and its spread into western Europe.
Ancient DNA, Palaeogenetics, Domestication, Cattle, Aurochs, Neolithic, Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)