Ancient DNA in archaeologically charred Zea mays: Prospects and Limitations for Ethnobiologists

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 16 May, 2013 - 20:20 to 20:40
ARMSTRONG, Chelsey Geralda - University of Western Ontario
Ian PUPPE - University of Western Ontario
Stephen FRATPIETRO - Lakehead Paleo-DNA Laboratory
Neal FERRIS - University of Western Ontario and Sustainable Archaeology
Eldon MOLTO - University of Western Ontario


Plant remains are an integral part of any archaeological investigation however; despite new developments in ancient genetics, research in plant ancient DNA (aDNA) is a relatively new and unexplored discipline. As a result, paleoethnobotanists, archaeologists and geneticists have not understood the feasibility and limitations of each others’ fields. For example, few seem aware that aDNA extraction from charred plant remains is rare and without any kind of standard or working protocol.

Herein, the possibilities of retrieving aDNA from charred Zea maize are considered resolving the question of whether or not archaeologically charred plants are a viable source for genetic material. The confirmed positive results generate questions about the added-value of maize and how knowledge of genetic attributes can contribute to the growing field of ethnobiology, particularly through community based research projects and demonstrating the value of these findings as they pertain to the treatment of charred floral remains by archaeologists.