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Paleogenomic Analysis of Archaeological Corn

The advent and spread of maize agriculture was a pivotal event in the prehistory of the New World. Understanding the character and history of the spread of agriculture will be essential to testing models designed to account for this change in economic orientation. This study, being conducted by PhD. student Michelle Knoll and faculty member Dennis O'Rourke, proposes to apply the principles of phylogeography, a method used by modern plant geneticists, to identify genetic variation between ancient maize populations. The project examines non-recombining chloroplast genomes for intraspecific variation to determine the historical processes that led to the geographic distribution of a biological population. Our study has three goals: (1) to find areas of variability on the plastid genome sufficient for comparative analysis, (2) to establish a reliable method for the extraction of DNA from ancient maize specimens, and (3) to develop a protocol for the rapid and inexpensive sequencing of large numbers of specimens necessary for population genetics studies. We believe the resultant radiocarbon-dated haplotype library will be of great use to the archaeological and paleobotanical research communities.


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Last Updated: 11/28/16