An international research team led by Lund University in Sweden has created a method that can precisely date up to ten thousand-year-old human remains by examining DNA with the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Mapping human migration patterns throughout history depends on being able to date ancient humans properly.
Radiocarbon dating has been the accepted dating technique since the 1950s. The approach, which is based on the ratio between two distinct carbon isotopes, has completely changed archaeology. However, the technology is not always 100% accurate, making it challenging to trace historical people, their movements, and their relationships.
Researchers have created a dating method that could be of significant interest to archaeologists and paleognomicists in a recent study that was published in Cell Reports Methods.
Unreliable dating is a major problem, resulting in vague and contradictory results. Our method uses artificial intelligence to date genomes via their DNA with great accuracy.
Eran Elhaik, Researcher, Molecular Cell Biology, Lund University
Genomes up to 10,000 years old can be dated using the Temporal Population Structure (TPS) technique. The study’s scientific team examined some 5,000 human remains, ranging in age from the Late Mesolithic (10,000–8,000 BC) to the present. All of the examined samples were dated with a level of precision that is quite uncommon.
“We show that information about the period in which people lived is encoded in the genetic material. By figuring out how to interpret it and position it in time, we managed to date it with the help of AI,” says Eran Elhaik.
TPS is not expected to replace radiocarbon dating; rather, the researchers regard it as an additional tool in the paleogeographic toolbox. When a radiocarbon dating result is questionable, the technique might be applied.
One such is the well-known human skull from Zlatky, which could be anywhere between 15,000 and 34,000 years old. It is found in the present-day Czech Republic.
“Radiocarbon dating can be very unstable and is affected by the quality of the material being examined. Our method is based on DNA, which makes it very solid. Now we can seriously begin to trace the origins of ancient people and map their migration routes,” concludes Eran Elhaik.
Behnamian, S., et al. (2022) Temporal population structure, a genetic dating method for ancient Eurasian genomes from the past 10,000 years. Cell Reports Methods. doi.org/10.1016/j.crmeth.2022.100270.