Palaeogenetics of cattle domestication: Methodological challenges for the study of fossil bones preserved in the domestication centre in Southwest Asia

Eva-María GEIGL

en Comptes Rendus Palevol 7 (2-3) - Pages 99-112

Published on 30 April 2008

This article is a part of the thematic issue Palaeogenetics in palaeontology, archaeology and palaeoanthropology: Contributions and limits

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)

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