DNA Archeology


All living things have different patterns of DNA, the information that makes you unique. Just like objects and fossils, DNA can be used to learn about the past and how life evolves.

One of the problems that we come across when using DNA to look at past life, is that DNA breaks down over time, and you will discover how in this game.


Swedish summary:

Alla levande organismer har olika sekvenser av DNA och det är den informationen som gör oss unik. Liksom vi kan använda oss av gamla föremål och fossiler, så kan vi även använda den information som finns i DNA för att lära oss om historien och evolution.

En av svårigheterna med att arbeta med historiskt DNA är att det bryts ned med tiden. I denna aktivitet kommer du att få upptäcka hur och varför detta sker.



Our research focuses on human evolutionary genetics combining various areas of expertise with a passion for human evolution. We address topics regarding our very own history using population genetics, human genomics, computational biology, and archaeogenetics.

Our work starts with the collection of DNA from modern populations or ancient remains. Once this DNA is sequenced and the variable positions identified, various computational techniques allow us use these patterns of genetic variation to make inferences about human evolutionary history. Recently, we have developed and inferred demographic models explaining the patterns of genomic variation of ancient and modern humans from all over the world.


The activity

In our activity we want to describe the different events that happen to a DNA sequence once the organism is dead and relate it to the difficulties of working with ancient DNA. The participant will get a string of Duplo pieces of four different colors representing a DNA sequence. He will then roll a dice several time and depending on the value, modify the DNA sequence: 1-break the sequence (cellular membranes disappear, enzymes can access DNA), 2-add DNA pieces (from bacteria and fungi), 3-exchange the color of some pieces (other elements like sun, rain etc lead to chemical changes). After a number of such actions, we will provide the initial reference to the participant who can then try to reconstruct it with the pieces he is left with.




Resources of interest