Dr. Meirav Meiri

Ancient DNA analysis is a powerful tool that can shed light on the history of animal, plant and human populations. It addresses a variety of questions regarding the evolutionary relationships between species, population movements, animal and plant domestication and the impact of environmental changes on demography. 

The field thus holds particular importance for Israel and the entire southern Levant, which lie at the crossroads between Asia, Europe and Africa and thus represent a major dispersal route for plants, animal species and humans. The southern Levant served as a land bridge between the great centers of the ancient Near East and was therefore one of the most important foci of the ancient world. The region was settled by people from diverse genetic, ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, and was the scene of major population movements. Deciphering the genetic relationship between these ancient populations holds the key to understanding the region’s history and cultural development.

The Ancient DNA lab will be part of the HumanEvolutionCenter at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History. The lab will include separate clean rooms for ancient human DNA and animal/plant DNA. Each sub-clean lab will be equipped according to ancient DNA lab specifications; the ancient human DNA lab needs to stand up to the highest specifications to prevent contamination. The Center will provide professional support to scientists from all academic/research institutions in Israel as well as to visiting scientists from abroad that will come in order to conduct ancient DNA research on Israeli specimens.