Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Committee Member

Daniel C. Benyshek

Number of Pages



Bacterial pathogens not primarily affecting the skeleton but causing sepsis and death, have not been systematically studied in prehistoric human populations, although increasing evidence support our species long co-evolution with many of them. With molecular methods we can identify bacteria at the species level and distinguish pathogenic from environmental and soil bacteria. Bone marrow of ancient people may provide valuable information about ancient pathogens causing sepsis and death. To test the hypothesis that PCR amplification using universal bacterial primers will identify prehistoric bacterial pathogens in bone marrow, 30 samples were aseptically obtained from partially mummified remains of three archaeological sites of Northern Chile (Mo-1-6, AZ-140, and LLU-54) dated between 600--4,500 years B.P. Eight of the 30 samples (27%) yielded human DNA sequences documenting DNA preservation, three of which also amplified bacterial 16s rDNA, none corresponding to human pathogens. It appears that contaminant DNA prevents the detection of ancient pathogens with this method.


Ancient; Approach; Bacterial; Chile; DNA; Human; Infection; Northern; Paleoepidemiology; Populations; Prehistoric

Controlled Subject

Physical anthropology; Forensic anthropology

File Format


File Size

1.53 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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