For over half a century, archaeology teams have depended on radiocarbon dating as their standard tool to date objects and human remains. Now, thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, an international team from Lund University in Sweden have developed a method that can, with rarely seen accuracy, date archeological remains up to ten-thousands years. If this method gains widespread acceptance, it could revolutionize how researchers map human migrator patterns over the last ten millennia.
This new study was first published in Cell Reports Methods and shows how the team was able to develop this dating method which could enhance accuracy in dating archeological remains. According to a researcher in molecular cell biology at Lund University, Eran Elhaik, unreliable dating is a major issue in the field, “Unreliable dating is a major problem, resulting in vague and contradictory results. Our method uses artificial intelligence to date genomes via their DNA with great accuracy…”
Temporal Population Structure or TPS was developed by the Swedish team and can date genomes that are up to ten thousand years gold. In the study, the Lund University team analyzed 5,500 archeological remains from the Late Mesolithic period. This period ranges between 10,000 to 8,000 BC. This was the final period of many hunter-gather cultures before the transition into greater dependency on agriculture.
In all the samples studied with the new AI program, the team was able to date samples with rarely seen accuracy. Earn Klahik explains how the artificial program assisted the team. “We show that information about the period in which people lived is encoded in the genetic material. By figuring out how to interpret it and position it in time, we managed to date it with the help of AI.”
Just like with any AI program, the team at Lund University doesn’t expect their program to replace carbon dating, instead visualizing it as a complementary tool to the tried and tested method. Finally, Eran Elhaik explains how the AI program can work in hand with carbon dating. “Radiocarbon dating can be very unstable and is affected by the quality of the material being examined. Our method is based on DNA, which makes it very solid. Now we can seriously begin to trace the origins of ancient people and map their migration routes.”