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Unearthing History: 2022 Virtual Lecture #4: aDNA – Ancient DNA

Thursday September 15 2022 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Unearthing History: The discovery of a 12,500 year old Paleo-Indian site along the Farmington River in Avon. Join us for a virtual series of lectures, sponsored by a grant from the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic Committee that will cover the archaeology, genetics, ice age mammals, trade routes and food ways of early life along the Farmington River, with a focus on the Brian D. Jones Paleo-Indian discovery in Avon, Connecticut.

Times are EST: Eastern Standard Time.  Events are free to attend. Webinars will be recorded and posted to the Avon Library’s YouTube Channel.

Looking into the Past with Ancient DNA. Presented by Christina Balentine and Samantha Archer, PhD candidates and research scholars at the UConn Dept. of Anthropology. They will present a broad overview of ancient DNA (aDNA) research past and present, discuss the ethical considerations of working with priceless aDNA samples, and highlight their own dissertation research using aDNA.

When the 1993 blockbuster hit Jurassic Park premiered in theatres worldwide, people were captivated by the idea of scientists being able to extract DNA from long-dead organisms to study and potentially even bring them back to life. The first time that DNA was actually retrieved and studied from a long-dead organism was in 1984 when scientists sequenced DNA from a quagga, an extinct relative of the zebra. In the nearly 40 years since then, the field of ancient DNA (aDNA) research has exploded, with scientists being able to study DNA from 1-million-year-old mammoths, Neandertals, people who lived thousands of years ago to just a few hundred to thousands of years ago, ancient bacteria, plants, and more. But why is studying aDNA important? What kind of questions can the study of aDNA address? In this lecture, Christina Balentine & Samantha Archer will present a broad overview of aDNA research past and present, discuss the ethical considerations of working with priceless aDNA samples, and highlight dissertation research that uses aDNA to address very different questions about the lived experiences of humans in the past.

Samantha Archer, M.A. is an anthropological geneticist and biocultural anthropologist entering her fifth year of the doctoral program in anthropology at the University of Connecticut. Her dissertation focuses on applying molecular archaeological technologies to investigate the lives of people who lived in mid-to-late 19th century Texas. She holds a Master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Christina M. Balentine is an anthropological geneticist and PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Connecticut. In her dissertation research, she is studying ancient DNA from people who lived thousands of years ago in what is now Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Chile, to learn about their migration histories and how they adapted to their cold environment.

Please register and a Zoom link will be sent out before the event.

This 2022 VIRTUAL HISTORY SERIES is sponsored by Avon Historical Society, Avon Free Public Library and Avon Senior Center, in partnership with the Avon Land Trust, Farmington River Watershed Association, and the Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington, CT. 


Thursday September 15 2022
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
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