Location

University of Nevada Las Vegas, Science and Education Building

Start Date

9-8-2011 10:15 AM

End Date

9-8-2011 12:00 PM

Description

The study of coprolites (mummified feces) is a relatively new endeavor, which enables investigations of the health and diet of ancient people and provides some of the oldest evidence to date for the human habitation in North America (2). In this project, 18 coprolites were examined from archeological digs at three Great Basin caves: the Bonneville Estates Rockshelter (UT), Hidden Cave (NV), and Top of the Terrace Rockshelter (UT). The main objectives were: 1) to verify human origin through the presence of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and 2) assuming human origin, characterize intestinal microflora of Native Americans prior to European contact. Primer sets specific for human mtDNA were employed to obtain products and establish human origin in general and Native American origin specifically (through SNP analysis). Initial microbiological efforts targeted the bacterial genus, Bacteroides, which tend to dominate gut flora in modern humans and thus is considered an ideal indicator for human fecal contamination (1,6). Primers targeting human-associated Bacteroides spp. strains were used in conjunction with human mtDNA results to further verify human origin. A major obstacle in this project, as might be expected, was damage to ancient DNA (aDNA). aDNA from coprolite samples is usually degraded into short fragments due to hydrolytic or oxidative damage, greatly reducing the possibility of long polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplifications (4). The suggestion is that if large fragments are obtained from PCR, that the sample is most likely contaminated (3). To repair the fragmented aDNA, a technique termed reconstructive polymerization (RP) developed by Golenberg et al. (3) was applied. If these samples are found to be of human origin, it could provide an interesting lens into not only humans, but also the colonization of Western North America and beyond.

Keywords

Caves; Coprolites; Excavations (Archaeology); Feces — Microbiology; Indians of North America; United States – Great Basin

Disciplines

Archaeological Anthropology | Biochemistry | Biological and Physical Anthropology | Genetics and Genomics | Molecular Biology

Language

English

 
Aug 9th, 10:15 AM Aug 9th, 12:00 PM

Investigating the origin of coprolites from three great basin caves

University of Nevada Las Vegas, Science and Education Building

The study of coprolites (mummified feces) is a relatively new endeavor, which enables investigations of the health and diet of ancient people and provides some of the oldest evidence to date for the human habitation in North America (2). In this project, 18 coprolites were examined from archeological digs at three Great Basin caves: the Bonneville Estates Rockshelter (UT), Hidden Cave (NV), and Top of the Terrace Rockshelter (UT). The main objectives were: 1) to verify human origin through the presence of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and 2) assuming human origin, characterize intestinal microflora of Native Americans prior to European contact. Primer sets specific for human mtDNA were employed to obtain products and establish human origin in general and Native American origin specifically (through SNP analysis). Initial microbiological efforts targeted the bacterial genus, Bacteroides, which tend to dominate gut flora in modern humans and thus is considered an ideal indicator for human fecal contamination (1,6). Primers targeting human-associated Bacteroides spp. strains were used in conjunction with human mtDNA results to further verify human origin. A major obstacle in this project, as might be expected, was damage to ancient DNA (aDNA). aDNA from coprolite samples is usually degraded into short fragments due to hydrolytic or oxidative damage, greatly reducing the possibility of long polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplifications (4). The suggestion is that if large fragments are obtained from PCR, that the sample is most likely contaminated (3). To repair the fragmented aDNA, a technique termed reconstructive polymerization (RP) developed by Golenberg et al. (3) was applied. If these samples are found to be of human origin, it could provide an interesting lens into not only humans, but also the colonization of Western North America and beyond.