Stop hoarding ancient bones, plead archaeologists
The quest to chronicle the past using DNA from ancient humans and animals has become a cut-throat ‘game of bones’, in which a handful of genetics laboratories are hoarding precious samples, three archaeologists charge in a 9 August letter to Nature.
The scientists call for more careful stewardship of DNA-rich bone specimens to ensure that they remain available to multiple research teams to study. They point to the example of a newly established centre in Israel that will act as a national clearing house to curate animal bones from archaeological sites, so that many researchers can access samples for genetic analysis.
“There’s a lot of pressure on these resources right now, on this skeletal material,” says Cheryl Makarewicz, an archaeologist at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, and a co-author of the letter. “The problem is there’s not enough to go around.”