Ethics of DNA research on human remains: five globally applicable guidelines

Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg, David Anthony, Hiba Babiker, Eszter Bánffy, Thomas Booth, Patricia Capone, Arati Deshpande-Mukherjee, Stefanie Eisenmann, Lars Fehren-Schmitz*, Michael Frachetti, Ricardo Fujita, Catherine J. Frieman, Qiaomei Fu, Victoria Gibbon, Wolfgang Haak, Mateja Hajdinjak, Kerstin P. Hofmann, Brian Holguin, Takeshi Inomata, Hideaki Kanzawa-KiriyamaWilliam Keegan, Janet Kelso, Johannes Krause, Ganesan Kumaresan, Chapurukha Kusimba, Sibel Kusimba, Carles Lalueza-Fox, Bastien Llamas, Scott MacEachern, Swapan Mallick, Hirofumi Matsumura, Ana Y. Morales-Arce, Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, Veena Mushrif-Tripathy, Nathan Nakatsuka, Rodrigo Nores, Christine Ogola, Mercedes Okumura, Nick Patterson, Ron Pinhasi, Samayamantri P.R. Prasad, Mary E. Prendergast*, Jose Luis Punzo, David Reich*, Rikai Sawafuji, Elizabeth Sawchuk, Stephan Schiffels, Jakob Sedig*, Svetlana Shnaider, Kendra Sirak*, Pontus Skoglund, Viviane Slon, Meradeth Snow, Marie Soressi, Matthew Spriggs, Philipp W. Stockhammer*, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy, Kumarasamy Thangaraj, Vera Tiesler, Ray Tobler, Chuan Chao Wang, Christina Warinner, Surangi Yasawardene, Muhammad Zahir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We are a group of archaeologists, anthropologists, curators and geneticists representing diverse global communities and 31 countries. All of us met in a virtual workshop dedicated to ethics in ancient DNA research held in November 2020. There was widespread agreement that globally applicable ethical guidelines are needed, but that recent recommendations grounded in discussion about research on human remains from North America are not always generalizable worldwide. Here we propose the following globally applicable guidelines, taking into consideration diverse contexts. These hold that: (1) researchers must ensure that all regulations were followed in the places where they work and from which the human remains derived; (2) researchers must prepare a detailed plan prior to beginning any study; (3) researchers must minimize damage to human remains; (4) researchers must ensure that data are made available following publication to allow critical re-examination of scientific findings; and (5) researchers must engage with other stakeholders from the beginning of a study and ensure respect and sensitivity to stakeholder perspectives. We commit to adhering to these guidelines and expect they will promote a high ethical standard in DNA research on human remains going forward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-46
Number of pages6
Issue number7883
StatePublished - 4 Nov 2021


FundersFunder number
Alon Fellowship
Max Planck Harvard Research Center for the Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
John Templeton Foundation6122
National Geographic Society
Wellcome Trust
Francis Crick InstituteFC001595
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme844014
Werner Siemens-Stiftung
Medical Research Council
Cancer Research UK
European Research CouncilERC-2017-StG 804844-DAIRYCULTURES
Australian Research CouncilDP160100811
National Research Foundation
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India
Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo2018/23282-5
Science and Engineering Research Board
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk OnderzoekVI.C.191.070
Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico302163/2017-4
Magyar Tudományos AkadémiaJCB/2019/000027
Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan


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