Setting Up an Ancient DNA Laboratory

Methods Mol Biol. 2019;1963:1-13. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-9176-1_1.


Entering into the world of ancient DNA research is nontrivial. Because the DNA in most ancient specimens is degraded to some extent, the potential is high for contamination of ancient samples, ancient DNA extracts, and genomic sequencing libraries prepared from these extracts with non-degraded DNA from the present-day environment. To minimize the risk of contamination in ancient DNA environments, experimental protocols specific to handling ancient specimens, including those that outline the design and layout of laboratory space, have been introduced. Here, we outline challenges associated with working with ancient samples, including providing guidelines for setting up a new ancient DNA laboratory. We also discuss steps that can be taken at the sample collection and preparation stage to minimize the potential for contamination of ancient DNA experiments with exogenous sources of DNA.

Keywords: Ancient DNA; Contamination; DNA damage; Guidelines; Laboratory setup; Sample preparation; Subsampling; aDNA.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Contamination*
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA, Ancient / analysis*
  • DNA, Ancient / chemistry
  • DNA, Ancient / isolation & purification
  • Fossils
  • Humans
  • Laboratories / standards
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / standards


  • DNA, Ancient