The genetics, movements, admixtures and adaptations of world-wide past human populations from 20,000-2,000 BC

Human populations have never been static. Throughout time, they have moved between places, admixed with each others, and had to adapt to new environments and climatic conditions. In this project, which is carried out in collaboration with the Reich LabHarvard, aim to use ancient DNA to retrace these processes.

The gentics of the populations of the Roman Empire and Antiquity

The period of Antiquity was one of great documented cultural diversity. With the help of ancient DNA, we are attempting to disentangle this diversity to further understand the complex processes that led to it. The project is carried out in collaboration with the Pritchard Lab, Stanford.

The genetics of archaic and early modern humans

In the past 300,000 years we have witnessed the presence of a number of human species including Homo erectus, H. heidelbergensis, Neanderthals, and Paleolithic early modern humans. Recent progresses in ancient DNA technologies have allowed us to push the time limits of our studies. By extracting and analyzing ancient DNA of these older fossils, using optimal methods that we developed for petrous bones and dental cementum, we aim to shed more light on their origins and lifeways.

Mineralogical Preservation of the Human Biome from the Depth of Time (MINERVA

The preservation of ancient DNA is highly dependent on the environmental conditions in which it happens. In this project, we are developing new approaches for the detection of preserved ancient DNA molecules in ancient sediments and various minerals from a diverse range of human habitats and anthropogenic environments.

Development of new methods to optimize ancient DNA yields and minimize invasiveness of the sampling process

Two of the main issues facing ancient DNA studies are the scarceness of resources from which to sample and the frequent poor preservation of the DNA within. One of the main focus of our team is therefore to develop methods to maximize the amount of information which can be extracted from archeological remains while minimizing the impact of this research on them. We are actively developing new methods to extract DNA from bones, teeth and mummified tissues.
We have developed methods which target the 
petrous bone (1,2), and accessing it in the case of complete skulls through the cranial base, and extraction from ear ossicles.

Study of the microbiomes of past European and South American mummies

Individuals’ microbiome can reveal a wealth of information about their lives and the environment they lived in. Using minimally-destructive methods which we are developing, we aim to sample the microbiomes of natural mummies from several regions in Europe and South America to shed more light on the living conditions of the individuals.

Methylation clock and paleo-epigenetics

Biomarkers of ageing based on DNA methylation data have enabled accurate age estimates for humans using a wide range of tissue across the entire life course. We focus on the development of a methylation clock for human petrous bone (cochlea) and dental tissues (dentine, cementum) which will enable the derivation of accurate age estimates for bioarchaeological and forensic research. We also collaborate with Liran Carmel and his team on paleo-egpigenetics research which aims at reconstructing pre-mortem epigenetic patterns in ancient individuals, which can then be used to infer on gene activity patterns and can potentially reveal critical adaptations of past human groups.