Abstract and Keywords
This article discusses that there are many pitfalls in evaluating the significance and reliability of molecular data that are mainly due to the uncontrolled context in which past biological events took place. Three methods addressed include: the analysis of archaeological human bone chemistry as evidence of dietary geography; the molecular analysis of archaeological human bone for genetic information as evidence of population relatedness; and the molecular statistics of living human genomes as evidence of past geographic dispersal. Ancient DNA (aDNA) studies, especially on humans, have a very chequered record, yielding results which are comparatively meagre for the effort involved, and furthermore are extremely difficult to corroborate. In contrast to aDNA studies, however, which are wholly dependent on the survival of original DNA, modern DNA studies can expect to increase in scope and power, benefiting from the extraordinary increase in molecular genetic knowledge driven by biomedical research.
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