A team led by Dr Anna Juras from the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology conducts fossil DNA research at the Institute of Anthropology, Faculty of Biology of Adam Mickiewicz University. Their laboratory started to be affectionately called the royal laboratory after they began to study the DNA of the Piast royal dynasty.
Fossil DNA sequencing is considered a method for basic research, e.g. used in evolutionary biology to verify hypotheses about the origin and kinship of species, or in population genetics to study the origin and migration of human populations. But this method is also used in applied research involving the methods and tools for molecular analysis that could be used in forensic biology in the future (e.g. for identification of individuals or kinship research).
The study on the Polish Piast dynasty is being conducted as part of the project “The dynasty and society of the Piast state from an integrated historical, anthropological and gnomic perspective”.
Preliminary results are so intriguing that they could soon disrupt the current perception of the history of Poland and its people. Perhaps we will finally know the truth about where “our bloodline comes from”. We could also find out whether Casimir the Great was really a descendant of Bolesław the Brave, and perhaps even see what those princes and kings looked like.
Ongoing research on the remains of the Piasts involves the comparison and description of their genomes. Early in the project, the list of inventoried Piast burial sites consisted of about 500 locations. After studying only 30 of these sites, the team knew they were in for a guaranteed success. Notably, they represented the entire period of the Piast dynasty. Currently, researchers are comparing the Y chromosomes, to see whether markers are shared by all of the Piasts. By now we know, however, that this is not necessarily the case...