Archaeogenetics & Molecular Anthropology

PI: Donata Luiselli
The study of genetic variability of human populations from a diachronic perspective has been substantially improved by recent technological and data analyses innovations for characterizing polymorphic markers in both modern populations and ancient or strongly damaged samples. Molecular analysis of autosomal, mitochondrial and microbial DNA thus enables us to reconstruct genetic relationships among human populations across different time and geographic scales.

In the last decades, Molecular Anthropology has focused on two main genetic systems: mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the non-recombining portion of the Y-chromosome (NRY). Thanks to their uniparental inheritance and through the coalescent approach, it is possible to reconstruct the evolutionary history of monophyletic genetic lineages up to their most recent common ancestor. Recent innovations in the field of DNA extraction and characterization, even from ancient biological samples, has led to the generation of huge databases of autosomal and mitochondrial sequences from modern and ancient individuals, enabling to investigate the full spectrum of human genetic variation according to both synchronic and diachronic perspectives. Thanks to the collaboration with the Laboratories of Physical Anthropology and Ancient DNA of the Department of Cultural Heritage in Ravenna (Dr. Elisabetta Cilli) is thus possible to study past populations and to reconstruct the evolutionary and demographic dynamics occurred in such human communities from their origins up to the present.
This research line also deals with topics such as the evaluation of the degree of kinship among ancient remains, of their possible pathological status, as well as with the analysis of their oral and gut microbiota.
These approaches are also tightly linked with the field of forensic research due to shared experimental and analytical methodologies useful for the reconstruction of the biogeographic ancestry of remains of historical-anthropological and/or forensic interest.

Diachronic study of Mediterranean human populations
Patrizia Serventi PhD project for the XXX cycle of the PhD Course in Earth, Life and Environmental Sciences: Molecular analysis of ancient and modern DNA in human populations from the Mediterranean Sea