Relatively well preserved DNA is present in the crystal aggregates of fossil bones

Michal Salamon*, Noreen Tuross, Baruch Arensburg, Steve Weiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


DNA from fossil human bones could provide invaluable information about population migrations, genetic relations between different groups and the spread of diseases. The use of ancient DNA from bones to study the genetics of past populations is, however, very often compromised by the altered and degraded state of preservation of the extracted material. The universally observed postmortem degradation, together with the real possibility of contamination with modern human DNA, makes the acquisition of reliable data, from humans in particular, very difficult. We demonstrate that relatively well preserved DNA is occluded within clusters of intergrown bone crystals that are resistant to disaggregation by the strong oxidant NaOCl. We obtained reproducible authentic sequences from both modern and ancient animal bones, including humans, from DNA extracts of crystal aggregates. The treatment with NaOCl also minimizes the possibility of modern DNA contamination. We thus demonstrate the presence of a privileged niche within fossil bone, which contains DNA in a better state of preservation than the DNA present in the total bone. This counterintuitive approach to extracting relatively well preserved DNA from bones significantly improves the chances of obtaining authentic ancient DNA sequences, especially from human bones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13783-13788
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
StatePublished - 27 Sep 2005


  • Ancient DNA
  • Preservation


Dive into the research topics of 'Relatively well preserved DNA is present in the crystal aggregates of fossil bones'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this