66930 - Archaeogenetics

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student has basic technical-scientific and practical skills concerning the application of biomolecular technologies to the study and preservation of biological materials coming from archaeological contexts, in particular as it concerns the analysis of DNA extracted from human, animal and plant remains, aimed at their characterization and genetic identification and related scientific topics.

Course contents

General notions of cell and molecular biology. Structure of cells: prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The genome, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Inheritance of biological characteristics. The DNA: structure and function. The genetic code. Protein synthesis. Mutations and genetic recombination.

The variability of human genome: the genetic polymorphisms. The analysis of human genome variability: genetic markers of mitochondrial and nuclear genome. Fundamental topics of population and evolutionary genetics.

The ancient DNA: first studies, conservation of samples, contamination and degradation of DNA. The sampling on the archaeological excavation. The recovery and the choice of appropriate samples.

Laboratory methods: DNA extraction, DNA amplification, Next Generation Sequencing technologies.

Applications: study of origin and diffusion of modern humans, inbreeding and the genomic inheritance of the Neanderthals and Denisovans, past European settlement, sex determination, personal identification, determination of kinship, identification of animal and plant species, processes and centers of domestication in some animal and plant species, phylogenetic analysis and genetic continuity, identification and spread of specific infective or hereditary pathologies.

The course includes practical lessons in the laboratory where the students can extract and amplify DNA from biological samples (buccal mucous, plant samples and bioarchaeological finds).



-Caramelli D. - Antropologia molecolare: manuale di base. Firenze University Press, 2009.

Or alternatively:

-Brown T., Brown K.- Biomolecular archaeology. An introduction. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.



-Griffiths A.J.F., Gelbart W.M., Miller J.H., Lewontin R.C. - Genetica moderna. Zanichelli


-Donati C., Stefani M., Taddei N. - Biologia & Genetica, Zanichelli 2019.


-Strachan T., Read A. - Genetica molecolare umana, Zanichelli, 2012.

Or comparable texts



-Martin J. - Cacciatori di molecole. L'archeologia alla ricerca del DNA antico. Carocci, 2005.

-Paabo S. - L'uomo di Neanderthal. Alla ricerca dei genomi perduti. Einaudi, 2014.

-Reich D. - Chi siamo e come siamo arrivati fin qui. Raffaello Cortina, 2019.

-Barbujani G. - Sillabario di genetica. Bompiani, 2019.


The recommended textbooks contain also notions not required by the course. Please comply with the program of the course detailed on this web page and, if in doubt, do not hesitate to contact the professor by email or during the office hours.

The slides of the lessons and also scientific papers about some topics of the course will be provided during classes and also uploaded on "Insegnamenti online".

Teaching methods

The course is based on lectures dealing with the program topics, supplemented by practical laboratory exercises, involving the application of molecular biology techniques and the analysis and interpretation of data using suitable computer programs.

Assessment methods

Student evaluation consists of an oral exam on the entire course program. The student must show that he/she has acquired adequate general and systematic knowledge of the various topics and has mastered the scientific and methodological tools, both on the theoretical and applicative level, of the Archaeogenetics research.

Non-attending students. The frequency of the lessons is strongly recommended for the achievement of a good profit because for the examination test are also required technical knowledge that are acquired during the course, composed of both frontal lessons and practical lessons of laboratory. However, students who for valid reasons can not attend the course are invited to ask the teacher for the suggestion of the necessary supplementary texts.

Teaching tools

Projector, PC, slides (power-point presentations) and lecture notes showing the latest scientific literature. Laboratory exercises will be carried out with suitable materials and instruments.

Office hours

See the website of Elisabetta Cilli


Good health and well-being Reduced inequalities Climate Action Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.