For years it has been possible to reconstruct aspects of our evolutionary past studying the morphology of ancient human remains, or analyzing the DNA of modern populations in the light of theoretical evolutionary models. Thanks to recent advances in molecular characterization and data analysis techniques, it is now possible to study the DNA of individuals from the past directly and on an unprecedented scale. The most important advantage of ultra deep sequencing is that it can allow to minimize contamination by exploiting molecular properties that would make it possible to distinguish ancient DNA from modern exogenous contamination.EPIC program aimed to study at a multi-disciplinary level some exceptional samples from central/southern Italy in a time frame that goes from the Upper Paleolithic to the Eneolithic age, comparing the results with present day populations. Particularly, genetic and cultural changes in the past and nearer to the present regarding subsistence strategies, state of health, social complexity and relations with the environment were investigated using the most advanced cutting edge methods in the bio-molecular, bio-informatic, bio-statistic, paleo-botanical and archeo-antropological field.This approached aimed to fill the gaps in knowledge of certain crucial phases in human demographic history helping reconstruct the biological characteristics of the Italian populations over time arriving at a detailed knowledge of how our genome evolved across time - something that only three years ago would have been almost inconceivable.Olga Rickards is Full Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Centre of Molecular Anthropology for Ancient DNA Studies of the Department of Biology of the University of Rome Tor Vergata. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Annals of Human Biology. Lucia Sarti, Full Professor of Pre-Protohistory at Siena University, is specialist in Prehistoric Archaelogy with publications about Neolithic, Eneolithic and Bronze Age of Central-Southern Italy and Mediterranean islands.
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