ADFs “Unlocking the past” symposium

ADF, the SciLife aDNA facility, was hosting a meeting in Uppsala these past two days. The intention was to let archaeologists and potential clients know that it is up and running, and also to provide a taste of what ADF can be used for. Thus, some of the established aDNAers were presenting, as well as some archaeologists who have been working with archaeogenetics. And what was I doing? I was asked to give an overview of the latest 30 years in the field. As I was so experienced (not old, just experienced…) to have used methods and done analyses that other people only had read about in old (very old) books. While others (certainly not necessarily younger…) are better with more modern stuff. Two good days it has been, with entertaining and enlightening presentations by Tom Gilbert, Love Dalén, Mattias Jakobsson, Antti Sajantila and many more.

I bring two impressions with me from the meeting. First, it is so inspiring to see how a group of archeologists which has been working close to archaeogenetecists are able to fully integrate aDNA results into their narratives. Mating genetics with archaeology is not always an easy thing, in 99 cases out of 100 will one be used as cosmetic for the other. I was therefore very happy to see Torun Zachrisson and Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson give presentations where genetic results were an important part that fitted well in together with the other parts, and equally happy to hear Janne Storå identify and discuss real and important ethical issues. Them three represents a steadily growing group of archaeologists who knows when and how to use archaeogenetic results, and who are able to identify issues that actually exists not only as a product of lack of knowledge. The other thing is that I still think the tension between archaeology and genetics is exaggerated. Curiosity, enthusiasm, and perhaps a little bit of sober skepticism is what I often encounter when I meet people from both archaeology and genetics. In summary, it was two good days (and it should be noted that Magnus Lundgren and his team lifted most of the weights organising them) where the focus were moving around in-between ancient DNA, paleoecology, paleomicrobiology, and archaeology. And I also got the chance to discuss KISS with Tom Gilbert which made me both happy and a little bit nostalgic.

Antti Sajantila presenting at ADFs symposium