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DNA

DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (DNA) is the genetic material that comprises cells found in all living organisms. The chromosomes found inside the nucleus of these cells is made up of DNA. DNA is a code that is divided into sections; these sections are functional units known as genes, which in essence dictate the physical composition of an individual.

DNA is string-like in appearance and governs the inheritance of an individualís physical traits, such as eye color, hair color and bone density. A specific location on a strand of DNA is known as a locus (plural, loci).

DNA is made up of double helix molecules, meaning that each molecule is made up of two strands that are coiled around one another. The double-stranded DNA molecule is bound together by four chemical components known as bases. These bases are: adenine (A); thymine (T); cytosine (C); and guanine (G). Adenine bonds with thymine and cytosine bonds with guanine.

These groups of letters comprise what is known as the code of life. The above base pairs are found in the human genome, the total grouping of hereditary information. In the human genome there are 2.9 billion base pairs, which are wound into 24 distinct bundles, known as chromosomes. Written into DNA are approximately 20,000 to 25,000 genes that human cells utilize in order to create protein, which are the building blocks of the body and which are essential to the growth and health of the individual.

Half of an individualís DNA is inherited from his mother while half of the individualís DNA is inherited from his father.

Because it provides scientists with a biological profile of the individual, DNA is an essential tool in archaeology Ė particularly when studying human remains. Any organism can be identified using the analysis of DNA sequences, because each species has DNA that is unique to individuals of its kind.

In addition, forensic scientists can use DNA to identify individuals by scanning 13 distinct DNA regions, which are compiled in order to establish the individualís unique DNA profile. This profile is sometimes referred to as a DNA fingerprint. There is an extremely low probability of two individuals having identical DNA profiles.

Therefore, DNA is a crucial tool in the field of archaeology as it enables archaeologists to identify the remains of an individual who lived thousands of years ago, as well as to establish the individualís relations, and more specifically, what type of biological relationship they had with the individual in question.


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