Conclusion

The race to continue to extract DNA from older and older samples will persist, but it is important that we keep up methodologically with the race to authenticate our results. Currently, no authentication criteria can completely exclude all paths of contamination in studies of very old DNA. This holds especially true for studies on ancient human and microbial remains. However, following strict criteria for authentication such as those outlined in Hebsgaard et al. (2005) will minimize false-positive results. It is concerning that many claims of very old DNA are still published without even following the most fundamental of these authentication criteria, which unfortunately renders these studies unreliable. It is our hope that, in order to interest a broader scientific community, the priorities change, so that age is not the most important factor but the focus is on reproducibility and authentication of results. Also, the centre of ancient DNA research should focus on what questions can be answered and not just how old the DNA is.

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