Pieces of mitochondrial DNA from a 7000-year-old human brain were amplified by the polymerase chain reaction and sequenced. Albumin and high concentrations of polymerase were required to overcome a factor in the brain extract that inhibits amplification. For this and other sources of ancient DNA, we find an extreme inverse dependence of the amplification efficiency on the length of the sequence to be amplified. This property of ancient DNA distinguishes it from modern DNA and thus provides a new criterion of authenticity for use in research on ancient DNA. The brain is from an individual recently excavated from Little Salt Spring in southwestern Florida and the anthropologically informative sequences it yielded are the first obtained from archaeologically retrieved remains. The sequences show that this ancient individual belonged to a mitochondrial lineage that is rare in the Old World and not previously known to exist among Native Americans. Our finding brings to three the number of maternal lineages known to have been involved in the prehistoric colonization of the New World.