Ancient DNA in Texas rock paintings Academic Article uri icon


  • The source of binder/vehicle(s) used by prehistoric North American artists to prepare their paints was previously unknown. Little DNA is expected to survive after several millennia; but even minute quantities of degraded DNA can be amplified by polymerase chain reaction and sequenced. An ancient fragment of pictograph histone DNA from two ca. 3,000 to 4200 year old Pecos River style pictograph samples was sequenced and compared to varied plant and animal sources to establish its origin. The sequences revealed that it was from an ungulate (even-toed, hoofed mammal). To our knowledge, this is the first biochemical determination of a binder/vehicle in a New World pictograph. We are sequencing the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit II gene which should provide enough sequence variability to narrow the origin of the DNA in the pictograph to species.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Reese, R. L., Mawk, E. J., Derr, J. N., Hyman, M., Rowe, M. W., & Davis, S. K.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Reese, RL||Mawk, EJ||Derr, JN||Hyman, M||Rowe, MW||Davis, SK

publication date

  • May 1996