Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department




Faculty Mentor Department


Faculty Mentor

Dr. Meradeth Snow

Faculty Reader(s)

Dr. Meradeth Snow, Dr. Ashley Kendall


ancient DNA, DNA extraction, stone tools, lithics, Bridge River, molecular anthropology

Subject Categories

Biological and Physical Anthropology | Genetics


Proteins and DNA can be trapped in the microcracks on the surface of stone tools, which can then be extracted and analyzed to aid in inferring the use of the tool (Shanks et al. 2001; 2005). This nondestructive method involves the use of sonication to release DNA from the microcracks, then amplification of regions of mitochondrial DNA that are species specific. This technique was applied to stone tools from the Bridge River site in British Columbia by researchers at UMT’s Ancient and Modern Molecular Anthropology labs. Bridge River archaeologists have designated the tools as used in “food processing or tool manufacturing” (Prentiss 2014), yet our analyses could connect the tools with specific species such as elk or deer. While part of our project entailed perfecting the methodology for DNA extraction and combatting complications, the main hypothesis behind our research is: Hypothesis: The potential for extracting DNA from archaeologically recovered lithics will enable identification of the species on which they were used. We were able to amplify the 16S region of the mtDNA molecule from a slate hide scraper, which when compared to GenBank was an exact match for Puma concolor (North American cougar / puma / Mountain Lion). Other tools have yielded bacterial matches (Paenibacillus and a Bacillus simplex strains). Our preliminary results suggest that DNA is accessible from the Bridge River lithic assemblage at low frequencies. As this project continues, we hope our goals aid in understanding the Bridge River site lithic tool use based on future aDNA collection.

Honors College Research Project




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