I'm a PhD student researching the role of mortuary archaeology in contemporary British society. Think of this as a scrapbook of all the interesting links, snippets of information and random bits and bobs I come across pertaining to death, dying and the dead. Enjoy?!


European origins laid bare by DNA
DNA from ancient skeletons has revealed how a complex patchwork of prehistoric migrations fashioned the modern European gene pool.
The study appears to refute the picture of Europeans as a simple mixture of indigenous hunters and Near Eastern farmers who arrived 7,000 years ago.
The findings by an international team have been published in Science journal.
DNA was analysed from 364 skeletons unearthed in Germany - an important crossroads for prehistoric cultures.
"This is the largest and most detailed genetic time series of Europe yet created, allowing us to establish a complete genetic chronology," said co-author Dr Wolfgang Haak of the Australian Centre for DNA (ACAD) in Adelaide.
"Focusing on this small but highly important geographic region meant we could generate a gapless record, and directly observe genetic changes in ‘real-time’ from 7,500 to 3,500 years ago, from the earliest farmers to the early Bronze Age."

(Source: BBC News)

European origins laid bare by DNA

DNA from ancient skeletons has revealed how a complex patchwork of prehistoric migrations fashioned the modern European gene pool.

The study appears to refute the picture of Europeans as a simple mixture of indigenous hunters and Near Eastern farmers who arrived 7,000 years ago.

The findings by an international team have been published in Science journal.

DNA was analysed from 364 skeletons unearthed in Germany - an important crossroads for prehistoric cultures.

"This is the largest and most detailed genetic time series of Europe yet created, allowing us to establish a complete genetic chronology," said co-author Dr Wolfgang Haak of the Australian Centre for DNA (ACAD) in Adelaide.

"Focusing on this small but highly important geographic region meant we could generate a gapless record, and directly observe genetic changes in ‘real-time’ from 7,500 to 3,500 years ago, from the earliest farmers to the early Bronze Age."

(Source: BBC News)


Mummified Head Did Not Belong To French King Henri IV, DNA Shows
LONDON — LONDON (AP) — Three years ago, French researchers declared that a centuries-old mummified head was that of the beloved King Henri IV. But now a new study says, “Non!”
The original conclusion was based largely on facial reconstruction techniques and signs the skull had injuries similar to those suffered by the monarch. The new study looked at DNA instead.
It found a genetic mismatch between the head and three living male relatives of the 17th-century French king. The researchers concluded the head didn’t come from anybody in the royal lineage.
Henri IV was one of France’s best-loved kings, credited with bringing religious peace to the country and building Parisian landmarks like the Pont Neuf bridge during his reign from 1589 to 1610. He was the first of the Bourbon monarchs and grandfather of the Sun King Louis XIV.
It’s “impossible” that the head belongs to Henri IV, said Jean-Jacques Cassiman, an emeritus professor at the University of Leuven, one of the authors of the new study. The research was published online Wednesday in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

(Source: Huffington Post)

Mummified Head Did Not Belong To French King Henri IV, DNA Shows

LONDON — LONDON (AP) — Three years ago, French researchers declared that a centuries-old mummified head was that of the beloved King Henri IV. But now a new study says, “Non!”

The original conclusion was based largely on facial reconstruction techniques and signs the skull had injuries similar to those suffered by the monarch. The new study looked at DNA instead.

It found a genetic mismatch between the head and three living male relatives of the 17th-century French king. The researchers concluded the head didn’t come from anybody in the royal lineage.

Henri IV was one of France’s best-loved kings, credited with bringing religious peace to the country and building Parisian landmarks like the Pont Neuf bridge during his reign from 1589 to 1610. He was the first of the Bourbon monarchs and grandfather of the Sun King Louis XIV.

It’s “impossible” that the head belongs to Henri IV, said Jean-Jacques Cassiman, an emeritus professor at the University of Leuven, one of the authors of the new study. The research was published online Wednesday in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

(Source: Huffington Post)


BEATLEMANIAC HELL-BENT ON GENERATING ARMY OF JOHN LENNONS FROM TOOTH DNA
Canadian dentist and tooth collector Michael Zuk spent more than $31,000 to purchase one of John Lennon’s rotten molars at an auction in 2011, but he’s no mere collector—he wants to use the DNA to regenerate a whole new John Lennon.
In the last week it has been reported that Zuk has come to an agreement with “U.S. researchers” to see what can be done with DNA extracted from the tooth. “I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon’s DNA, very soon I hope. With researchers working on ways to clone mammoths, the same technology certainly could make human cloning a reality.” Zuk continued: “To potentially say I had a small part in bringing back one of rock’s greatest stars would be mind-blowing.”
Lennon gave the molar to Dorothy “Dot” Jarlett, who worked as his housekeeper at his home in Weybridge, Surrey, according to her son, Barry. Jarlett, who worked for Lennon between 1964 and 1968, developed a warm relationship with the famous songwriter, her son said.
If you would like to follow this story in the future, be sure to check regularly at the John Lennon DNA website, which greets visitors with a very silly rendition of, er, “Love Me Tooth.”

(Source: Dangerous Minds)

BEATLEMANIAC HELL-BENT ON GENERATING ARMY OF JOHN LENNONS FROM TOOTH DNA

Canadian dentist and tooth collector Michael Zuk spent more than $31,000 to purchase one of John Lennon’s rotten molars at an auction in 2011, but he’s no mere collector—he wants to use the DNA to regenerate a whole new John Lennon.

In the last week it has been reported that Zuk has come to an agreement with “U.S. researchers” to see what can be done with DNA extracted from the tooth. “I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon’s DNA, very soon I hope. With researchers working on ways to clone mammoths, the same technology certainly could make human cloning a reality.” 

Zuk continued: “To potentially say I had a small part in bringing back one of rock’s greatest stars would be mind-blowing.”

Lennon gave the molar to Dorothy “Dot” Jarlett, who worked as his housekeeper at his home in Weybridge, Surrey, according to her son, Barry. Jarlett, who worked for Lennon between 1964 and 1968, developed a warm relationship with the famous songwriter, her son said.

If you would like to follow this story in the future, be sure to check regularly at the John Lennon DNA website, which greets visitors with a very silly rendition of, er, “Love Me Tooth.”

(Source: Dangerous Minds)


Mexican researchers extract intact DNA from Palenque’s Red Queen
The osseous remains of the Red Queen, the enigmatic character from Lakamha, “Place of the big waters”, today known as Palenque, in Chiapas, are being scientifically analyzed in order to date the burial in a more precise manner. It is still unknown as to whether the Red Queen was the wife of the celebrated dignitary Pakal II or if she was a ruler of that ancient Mayan metropolis. 
Although it’s not the first time that the Red Queen’s remains have been subject to various studies, the recent investigation initiative, which has the endorsement of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, awaits for the exams (among them DNA mitochondrional exams) to provide new information about the funerary context of this figure in Mayan history. She has been estimated to have died more than 1,300 years ago. 

(Source: Archaeology News Network)

Mexican researchers extract intact DNA from Palenque’s Red Queen

The osseous remains of the Red Queen, the enigmatic character from Lakamha, “Place of the big waters”, today known as Palenque, in Chiapas, are being scientifically analyzed in order to date the burial in a more precise manner. It is still unknown as to whether the Red Queen was the wife of the celebrated dignitary Pakal II or if she was a ruler of that ancient Mayan metropolis. 

Although it’s not the first time that the Red Queen’s remains have been subject to various studies, the recent investigation initiative, which has the endorsement of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, awaits for the exams (among them DNA mitochondrional exams) to provide new information about the funerary context of this figure in Mayan history. She has been estimated to have died more than 1,300 years ago. 

(Source: Archaeology News Network)


Richard III: are you related to the dead king?
Members of the public are being offered DNA tests to find out if they are related to the disinterred King Richard III.

A skeleton found in a Leicester car park was last week confirmed by DNA tests to be the missing remains of the king.


The remains of Richard III, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, were uncovered last September in the remains of Grey Friars Church in Leicester. A council car park had been built over the site.


The archaeologist who led the investigation, Dr Turi King of the University of Leicester, is to appear at the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live exhibition later this month.


Visitors to the show will also be able to take part in a DNA test to see if they descend from Richard III.




Dr King said: “As an archaeologist it is really unusual to be given a chance to look for someone who you can actually put a name to, who isn’t anonymous but is an important historical figure with a tangible story. Sometimes it feels a bit surreal, Indiana Jones-ish even.”
Annie Dodd, of Who Do You Think You Are? Live, said: “The revelation has really touched a chord amongst the public.
"There has been so much mystery surrounding Richard III and now people are getting the chance to meet Turi, ask questions and learn how her team unearthed one of the most infamous monarchs of all time.
"Some may even be related to the King, and we will be offering DNA tests to explore this.”
Richard III’s remains are to be reburied in a ceremony at Leicester Cathedral following the discovery.
David Monteith, Leicester Cathedral Canon Chancellor, said the remains would be reinterred early next year in a Christian-led but ecumenical service.
He said that because it would have been “unheard of” for the king not to have received a formal burial at the time, he could not be buried again and so it would be a service of remembrance.

Richard III: are you related to the dead king?

Members of the public are being offered DNA tests to find out if they are related to the disinterred King Richard III.

A skeleton found in a Leicester car park was last week confirmed by DNA tests to be the missing remains of the king.

The remains of Richard III, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, were uncovered last September in the remains of Grey Friars Church in Leicester. A council car park had been built over the site.

The archaeologist who led the investigation, Dr Turi King of the University of Leicester, is to appear at the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live exhibition later this month.

Visitors to the show will also be able to take part in a DNA test to see if they descend from Richard III.

Dr King said: “As an archaeologist it is really unusual to be given a chance to look for someone who you can actually put a name to, who isn’t anonymous but is an important historical figure with a tangible story. Sometimes it feels a bit surreal, Indiana Jones-ish even.”

Annie Dodd, of Who Do You Think You Are? Live, said: “The revelation has really touched a chord amongst the public.

"There has been so much mystery surrounding Richard III and now people are getting the chance to meet Turi, ask questions and learn how her team unearthed one of the most infamous monarchs of all time.

"Some may even be related to the King, and we will be offering DNA tests to explore this.”

Richard III’s remains are to be reburied in a ceremony at Leicester Cathedral following the discovery.

David Monteith, Leicester Cathedral Canon Chancellor, said the remains would be reinterred early next year in a Christian-led but ecumenical service.

He said that because it would have been “unheard of” for the king not to have received a formal burial at the time, he could not be buried again and so it would be a service of remembrance.



Dipped in the blood of beheaded French king: Scientists use DNA to confirm gourd was a VERY gruesome memento from the execution of Louis XVI
Two centuries after handkerchiefs were dipped in the blood of the beheaded French king Louis XVI, scientists believe they have proved one such rag kept as a revolutionary souvenir contains his bloodstains.
For years researchers have been trying to verify the claim that an ornately decorated calabash contained a blood sample of the king, who was guillotined in Paris on January 21, 1793.
On that day Parisian Maximilien Bourdaloue joined the crowds as dipped a handkerchief into the blood left at the scene of the decapitation.
He is then believed to have placed the fabric in the gourd, which has been in the hands of an Italian family for more than a century, and had it embellished.
Two years ago, analysis of DNA taken from traces of blood found inside the gourd revealed a likely match for someone of Louis’ description, including his blue eyes.
But it was never able to be proved beyond doubt as at the time the team did not have DNA of any royal relation.


You can read more here!

Dipped in the blood of beheaded French king: Scientists use DNA to confirm gourd was a VERY gruesome memento from the execution of Louis XVI

Two centuries after handkerchiefs were dipped in the blood of the beheaded French king Louis XVI, scientists believe they have proved one such rag kept as a revolutionary souvenir contains his bloodstains.

For years researchers have been trying to verify the claim that an ornately decorated calabash contained a blood sample of the king, who was guillotined in Paris on January 21, 1793.

On that day Parisian Maximilien Bourdaloue joined the crowds as dipped a handkerchief into the blood left at the scene of the decapitation.

He is then believed to have placed the fabric in the gourd, which has been in the hands of an Italian family for more than a century, and had it embellished.

Two years ago, analysis of DNA taken from traces of blood found inside the gourd revealed a likely match for someone of Louis’ description, including his blue eyes.

But it was never able to be proved beyond doubt as at the time the team did not have DNA of any royal relation.

You can read more here!

Waking the Dead: Talk on Ancient DNA at Thinktank October 2012