No bones needed: ancient DNA in soil can tell if humans were around | Ars Technica

The researchers also checked that their results lined up with the existing archaeological record. In three different caves, they found Neanderthal DNA in places where Neanderthal bones had previously been found, exactly where you would expect it to be.These signs that the method was working reliably meant that the researchers could move on to sites whose previous occupants were unknown. That included the discovery of Neanderthal DNA with the tools in Denisova Cave. Neanderthal DNA also showed up in Trou Al’Wesse in Belgium, where tools and animal bones have suggested Neanderthal presence, but no Neanderthal bones have ever been found.“It’s a really well-conducted study,” says Mikkel Winther Pedersen, a researcher who specializes in ancient DNA and wasn’t involved in the paper. They’re building on a solid body of existing research on these methods, he says, and the results are important for archaeology—not just because of the findings, but because it means that it’s possible to actually use “what the archaeologists usually just throw away: the dirt. Save the dirt!”

Source: No bones needed: ancient DNA in soil can tell if humans were around | Ars Technica