Ancient plant DNA as a window into the cultural heritage and biodiversity of our food system

Natalia A. S. Przelomska, Chelsey G. Armstrong, Logan Kistler

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Since the beginning of the ancient DNA revolution in the 1980s, archeological plant remains and herbarium specimens have been analyzed with molecular techniques to probe the evolutionary interface of plants and humans. In tandem with archeobotany, ethnobiology, and other methods, ancient DNA offers tremendous insights into the co-evolution of people and plants, and the modern genomic era offers increasingly nuanced perspectives on plant use through time. Meanwhile, our global food system faces threats linked with declining biodiversity, an uncertain climate future, and vulnerable crop–wild relatives. Ancient plant DNA does not yield easy answers to these complex challenges, but we discuss how it can play an important role in ongoing conversations about resilience, sustainability, and sovereignty in our food system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number74
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2020


  • archaeogenomics
  • ethnobiology
  • agrobiodiversity
  • food security
  • domestication
  • archaeobotany

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