We are now excavating at the site with the oldest ancient DNA from Africa

Here is some exciting news that has kept us all very busy this semester! Our new project at Mount Hora in the Mzimba District of northern Malawi is the site that yielded the oldest known ancient DNA from anywhere in Africa. Although it is a wonderful site and an exciting result, I am even more excited by what this means for the future of ancient DNA analysis in Africa. Analysis of the DNA of ancient Africans has traditionally suffered from poor preservation, and so those of us working in Africa have not had access to the richness of information researchers in Europe have now begun to enjoy on an almost daily basis. So I do hope these remains, dated to ~8100 years ago, do not remain the oldest known DNA from Africa for long! But for now, please see this wonderful write-up and video by Carol Clark of Emory University, and some accompanying publicity from the New York Times, Discover, and Smithsonian Magazine.

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Jessica C. Thompson

I am an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Emory University. I have two main research interests. The first is taphonomy: what happens to an organism's body after it dies. I use marks and other traces on fossil bones to understand ancient human and human ancestor behavior within their ecological contexts. My second main research interest is understanding how and when the earliest members of our species - Homo sapiens - interacted with one another and with their environments in Africa. With this aim, I lead a project in northern Malawi that combines archaeological, paleoenvironmental, and landscape data to document and interpret the Stone Age sites found there.

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