Spring Lecture Series 2022 Detail

Expanding Our Understanding of Crop Histories with Ancient DNA by Prof. Nathan Wales

– Part of the CDA Spring Lecture Series.


Speaker: Nathan Wales


Lecturer in Archaeological Science, Department of Archaeology, University of York (UK)

On Zoom



Ancient DNA – hosted by Prof. Brande Wulff.



Food plays a special role in human societies. In addition to providing nutrients and calories, food is often revered within different traditions. For archaeologists, identifying traces of ancient foods can give a new perspective on how cuisine became incorporated into cultural identities. Thanks to ancient DNA technologies, genetic testing of archaeological plants provides a powerful new way to investigate how crops changed over the past 10,000 years. This presentation explores the limits of these methods and how Wales has applied them in his own research on sunflower, maize, and grapevine. Through the genetic histories from ancient plant tissues, we stand to learn a great deal about past agricultural practices, with the potential of applying these findings to future crop breeding programs.

About the speaker

Nathan Wales started his academic career in archaeology at Truman State University and was trained in genetic analyses during graduate studies at the University of Connecticut. Through this interdisciplinary background, Wales applies ancient DNA methodologies to explore the domestication histories of plants. In 2018, Wales joined the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, where he leads the Ancient DNA laboratory at the BioArCh Facility. His most recent work has focused on the origins and spread of domesticated sunflower, maize, and grapevine. By exploring genes under selection and the propagation of specific varieties, he aims to understand how humans have utilized plants in the past and how this may impact the agriculture.


This event occurred in the past. You can watch the recording on our YouTube channel.

Event Quick Information

24 Mar, 2022
03:00 PM - 04:00 PM