Research and Event Highlight

Sept. 28, 2022

Preliminary Results of the Largest Ancient DNA Sequencing Project to be Presented October 5, 2022.

In the spotlight at the upcoming Environmental History Lab Seminar: "HistoGenes: Integrating Genomic, Archaeological, and Historical Perspectives on Eastern Central Europe" on October 5th, the HistoGenes project is sequencing ancient DNA from over 100 cemeteries and 6000 individuals and coordinating the genomic data produced with archaeological, isotopic, and historical data in the largest project of its type ever undertaken. With this DNA evidence, the project aims to examine the population change, customs and living conditions in Eastern Central Europe during the “Migration Age” between the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of medieval European states from the 5th to the 9th centuries.  Little is known about the social organization and integration of Huns, Goths, Avars, Slavs, Franks and others who succeeded each other in this region.  What affect did successions and migrations have on the Carpathian basin’s inhabitants?  Was mobility limited to ruling groups or did entire populations shift? Archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, and geneticists make up the uniquely diverse group of researchers aiming to answer these questions.

Janet Kay, project leader of the Environmental History Lab and art and archaeology department lecturer says of the HistoGenes project:

“I specialize in the use of biomolecular archaeology and burial archaeology to recover the stories of people whose lives would otherwise be lost to text-based history. HistoGenes is an exciting project because it is crucially interdisciplinary, and because it carefully considers paleogenomic evidence as one thread in a story alongside and in conversation with archaeological, anthropological, and also historical (text-based) knowledge. I’m really thrilled to be a part of this important research project!” —Janet Kay

This ambitious project aims not only to better understand migration and mobility in the early Middle Ages, but also to capture an intimate view of the lives of the women and men who moved across or settled in this region. The combined evidence will shed light on their diet, health, local and regional customs, and how they structured their families, their communities and their world.

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