Extraction of highly degraded DNA from ancient bones, teeth and sediments for high-throughput sequencing

Nat Protoc. 2018 Nov;13(11):2447-2461. doi: 10.1038/s41596-018-0050-5.


DNA preserved in ancient bones, teeth and sediments is typically highly fragmented and present only in minute amounts. Here, we provide a highly versatile silica-based DNA extraction protocol that enables the retrieval of short (≥35 bp) or even ultrashort (≥25 bp) DNA fragments from such material with minimal carryover of substances that inhibit library preparation for high-throughput sequencing. DNA extraction can be performed with either silica spin columns, which offer the most convenient choice for manual DNA extraction, or silica-coated magnetic particles. The latter allow a substantial cost reduction as well as automation on liquid-handling systems. This protocol update replaces a now-outdated version that was published 11 years ago, before high-throughput sequencing technologies became widely available. It has been thoroughly optimized to provide the highest DNA yields from highly degraded samples, as well as fast and easy handling, requiring not more than ~15 min of hands-on time per sample.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones / chemistry*
  • DNA, Ancient / isolation & purification*
  • Fossils
  • Gene Library
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Magnets
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry
  • Solid Phase Extraction / instrumentation
  • Solid Phase Extraction / methods*
  • Tooth / chemistry*


  • DNA, Ancient
  • Silicon Dioxide