Half of the ancient genomes are poorly dated, which limits their usefulness. In other words, scientists spend a lot of time digging, finding skeletons, extracting the DNA from bones, sequencing it, and cleaning it, but in half of the cases there is very little they can say about the skeleton if they don’t know when it is from.
We developed the Temporal Population Structure (TPS), the first robust tool to date ancient DNA from sequence data only. Using TPS, we dated hundreds of genomes. In some cases, TPS was more accurate than radiocarbon dating. We expect TPS to become a viable tool to date ancient human genomes and contract the findings with radiocarbon dating.
Title: A genomic dating tool for ancient genomes resolves the origins of hundreds of Eurasian genomes
Authors: U. Esposito, G. Holland, G. Alshehab, A. M. Dobre, M. Pirooznia, C. S. Brimacombe, and E. Elhaik
Abstract: Radiocarbon dating is the gold-standard in archaeology to estimate the age of skeletons, a key to studying their origins. Half of all published ancient human genomes lack reliable and direct dates, which results in obscure and contradictory reports. We developed Temporal Population Structure (TPS), the first DNA-based dating method for ancient genomes ranging from the Upper Palaeolithic to modern-day samples and applied it to all 961 ancient Eurasians. We show that TPS predictions for radiocarbon-dated skeletons align with their known dates and correctly account for kin relationships. The TPS-dating of 359 poorly dated Eurasian samples resolves conflicts and sheds new light on disputed findings as illustrated by five test cases. We discuss the phenotypic traits of the Time Informative Markers (TIMs) that underlie TPS.