07-31-01, 06:24 PM #1
More Ancient DNA Found
One of our oldest ancestors crouches in a cave under African skies clutching a stone tool. The hominid, an early member of the human family, nicks itself and a drop of blood oozes on to the rock. Nearly two million years later, scientists detect microscopic traces of blood on the tool and extract the DNA. They say it is the oldest human genetic material ever found.
This is the claim that is dividing the archaeological community. Two researchers say they have extracted the DNA of a 1.8-million-year-old hominid from stone tools excavated at the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg.
“The DNA we have found is something between a chimpanzee and a human, which suggests a hominid," Bonnie Williamson of Wits University, South Africa, told a Johannesburg newspaper this week.
"We strongly suspect that the DNA that we have is that of a hominid, but we still want to conduct more research to verify our claim," added co-researcher Tom Loy of the University of Queensland, Australia.
07-31-01, 10:54 PM #2
This is the science news that I have longed for !
<I>"PRAISE THE FLAME THAT LIGHTS THE WAY TO MOUNT OLYMPUS"</I>
Thank you, wet1. This spark of scientific journalism that you have contributed is precisely the reason why I <u>was</u> reading Exo.com before it was discontinued by Porfiry. In fact, I have suggested recently that a new form of Exo.com be resurrected as a science news chronicle. As coincidence would have it, I have specifically mentioned your informative posts in my letter to Porfiry <i>(Site Feedback). </i>Well done.
<b>In regard to the quotes about the newest of archaeological presumptions :</b>
I have always enjoyed reading about all archaeology. However I do have many reservations about the assertions which are made by the "archaeological community."
I find it very difficult to believe that any forensic specialist would have the equipment and know how to detect the difference between faint 2,000,000 year old blood specks (if that was what was detected) and 21st century human contamination which I believe must have been present during the archaeological "dig" of the site excavation.
In the need for resource material, I have done a search for forensic sites across the internet. One such result of this search is http://crimeandclues.com/protect.htm
As a summary point, I assert that archaeological forensic evidence has a brief life. Further, that forensic labs of criminal investigation should have very similar technology afforded to them, as the "archaeological community" almost certainly patronizes the same groups of forensic specialists.
In this rationale, I find it very difficult to "swallow" the mainstream proclamation of forensic "proof" that 2,000,000 year old <u>human</u> blood will show up in a forensic test series more strongly (above) than the obvious site contamination of the articles discovered during the recent site excavation. I would (most strongly) suggest also, that the very presence of the of the site excavators (archaeologist, site labors, ect..) would <b><u><i>easily contaminate the site, even if Hazardous Material suits were to be worn by all people present at the excavation.</b></U></I> After all, we talking about extremely faint evidence.
“The DNA we have found is something between a chimpanzee and a human, which suggests a hominid," Bonnie Williamson of Wits University, South Africa, told a Johannesburg newspaper this week"
When a student of detail (you and I) takes into consideration that the forensic examiner expects a 2,000,000 year old blood sample to be very difficult to detect, if at all, then one can imagine that the standard of the testing method(s) may become compromised. This shadow which I cast over these proposed results become even more dark when one takes into account that the patron (customer) of the forensic lab has most likely communicated these expectations to the participating lab administration and quite possibly to forensic lab personelle.
As I have previously stated, the likelihood of human (or human mixed) DNA contamination by the site excavators is assumed (a fact). Since any forensic testing lab would be pushing the technology limitations of attempting to detect 2,000,000 year old "Hominoid" (human-like) DNA, then it assuredly seems that any possible evidence of human DNA/blood would have been contaminated by the primal methods which are still employed by the <i>"archaeological communities"</i> today.
post script. <i> I must say that I am now much more intrigued about the subject of archaeology. I intend to access more information resources soon and will post any relevant information that I find. This question that you have posed could be pursued for quite some time, sir. I look forward to your applied logical reasoning of this facet of archeology.</I>
07-31-01, 11:02 PM #3
First, thank you for the vote of confidence, Pro. Max Arturo.
The point you bring to the table is indeed valid. The complete article was not presented in its entirety. It will please you to know that the very point you bring out was also remarked on.
I will return and edit this post to include the link to the complete article so that you may have the remainder of the information. Basically the rebuttal echoes exactly the point you have made. Very astute.
Last edited by wet1; 07-31-01 at 11:12 PM.
07-31-01, 11:34 PM #4
<b>The Art and Science of Criminal Investigation</H3></b>
<h2>PROTECTING THE CRIME SCENE</h2>
D.H. Garrison, Jr.<BR> Forensic Services Unit<BR> Grand Rapids, Michigan,
<I>This Article Originally Appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin,
Ask crime scene technicians to name the biggest problem that they encounter
on the job and you will consistently hear the same response--crime scene
contamination by curious officers, detectives, and supervisors. Whether called
evidence technicians, identification bureau officers, or laboratory specialists,
either civilian or sworn, most personnel responsible for the processing of
crime scene evidence find the same problems repeated by the same
"offenders."<SUP>1 </SUP>The unintentional contamination of crime scenes
appears to be a problem that will not go away without written departmental
policies reinforced by a strong foundation in training.
<B>JUST LIKE TELEVISION</B>
Very early in their careers, most law enforcement officers realize that the
police work they see depicted on television and in the movies bears little
resemblance to their jobs. It is something of an anomaly, therefore, that
many of these same officers seem to believe that crime scene work should
be performed as it is on the screen--murder scenes filled with loitering
blue uniforms and multitudes of detectives hovering over bodies, with crime
scene personnel appearing just long enough to snap an occasional picture
or to dust a piece of furniture for fingerprints. Officers who work under
this misconception do not seem to understand that a crime scene is no place
for a crowd.
<B>LOST EVIDENCE, LOST OPPORTUNITIES </B>
Widespread trampling of crime scenes can prove very damaging to investigations.
Often, it results in several of the more sensitive forensic techniques--such
as trace analysis, bloodspatter interpretation, and DNA comparison--not being
used to their fullest potential. Crime scene technicians know the futility
of collecting hair or fiber samples after a roomful of officers have shed
all over the scene. Footwear and tire track evidence is rarely recognized
as valuable in departments where officers routinely wander unimpeded through
crime scenes.<SUP>2</SUP> On occasion, this can seriously hamper
Not long ago, a sheriff's department was forced to conduct a mass fingerprinting
of its detective unit after a particularly sensational homicide crime scene
became overrun with curious personnel. Considerable time and effort went
into eliminating officers' fingerprints from the pool of legitimate prints.
In another case involving a different agency, a set of crime scene photographs
showed supervisory personnel standing on a blood-soaked carpet.
When the integrity of fingerprints and shoeprints is jeopardized, it is time
for agencies to rethink their approach to crime scene work. While departments
have tried artificial means of scene protection--such as having visitors
sign release forms agreeing to provide elimination fingerprints, hair samples,
and semen specimens, or establishing two-perimeter crime scenes (the inner
perimeter reserved for real forensic work)--these responses are mere salves
for a problem that demands more meaningful attention.<SUP>3</SUP>
<B>SETTING AN EXAMPLE </B>
The role of detectives and supervisors in protecting crime scenes cannot
be overstressed. These individuals ultimately are responsible for an
investigation. Investigators who conscientiously limit the number of visitors
to a crime scene ultimately may save themselves a great deal of legwork.
The simplest and most productive way for supervisors and detectives to discourage
crime scene contamination is to set a good example by their own behavior.
If a lieutenant walks around a crime scene at will, opening drawers and rifling
through closets, what could be the harm in other officers doing the same?
If a detective sergeant fails to implement a sign-in log for scene visitors,
what is there to limit "drop in" visits by curious patrol officers? It is
in the best interests of case investigators to set a good example and to
make sure others follow it.
To further enhance the protection of evidence, police administrators should
draft and enforce a written policy regarding crime scene protection and
preservation. The policy not only must be clear but also must carry the same
weight as any other departmental rule. Police administrators should not tolerate
curiosity as an excuse for unchecked visits to the scene of a crime.
Administrators, perhaps in conjunction with the local prosecutor's office,
should write and enforce the rules, and like supervisors and investigators,
set an example by their own behavior.<SUP>4</SUP>
Prosecutors who have lost cases due to crime scene contamination could be
an invaluable source of ideas in the formation of policy. Likewise,
administrators should take advantage of the technical knowledge of laboratory
and crime scene specialists when formulating the department's policy.
<B>WRITTEN POLICY </B>
The primary responsibilities of initial responders to a crime are to preserve
life and to control suspects and witnesses. Then, shifting their focus somewhat,
responding officers must take steps to preserve the integrity of the scene's
physical boundaries. While this may not be a problem for those officers who
were once taught the importance of protecting crime scenes, others--including
supervisors, media relations personnel, and administrators--sometimes have
trouble leaving well enough alone at a crime scene. <SUP>5</SUP>
A department's written policy should provide a uniform procedure to restrict
unnecessary access to crime scenes. A crime scene policy should contain the
The officer assigned to the crime scene's main entry must log in all visitors,
including name, rank, stated purpose, and arrival and departure times. Absolutely
no undocumented visitors should be allowed in the crime scene area
Every officer at the scene must complete a standard report describing their
involvement and their specific actions while at the scene
All visitors must make available any requested exemplar (hair, blood, shoeprints,
fingerprints, etc.) for elimination purposes
The highest ranking officer entering a crime scene must assume responsibility
for all subsequent visitors to the scene.
This final element means that any supervisory officer who visits the scene
to "have a look around" must stay at the site until either the crime scene
technicians finish their work or a higher ranking officer arrives. Needless
to say, this simple requirement goes a long way to discourage pointless tourism.
An officer attempting to secure a crime scene who finds the post regularly
overrun by curious commanders must have the means to protect the scene, enforce
department rules, and deal with superior officers. This is often a difficult
balancing act. A clearly-written, well-enforced policy helps to level the
<B>ADDRESSING FUTURE PROBLEMS </B>
In addition to a clearly defined written policy, departments should also
address the problem of crime scene contamination by instructing new officers
to follow approved practices. This is best accomplished during basic academy
instruction by having crime scene specialists discuss the department's policy
and the importance of protecting forensic evidence. As more officers become
trained in proper practices, the risk of future crime scene contamination
Crime scenes often yield forensic evidence that leads to the apprehension
of dangerous criminals. Perhaps just as often, though, potentially valuable
evidence is destroyed or rendered useless by careless behavior at the crime
scene. Clearly written directives and training for new officers in this area
will help agencies to resolve the problem. However, the ultimate responsibility
rests with administrators, supervisors, and detectives to reinforce positive
conduct by setting a good example for other officers to follow.
R. Saferstein, Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science, 2d ed.
(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1981), 31-32.
W. Bodziak, Footwear Impression Evidence (New York: Elsevier, 1990), 16-17.
L. Eliopulos, Death Investigator's Handbook: A Field Guide to Crime Scene
Processing, Forensic Evaluations, and Investigative Techniques (Boulder,
Colorado: Paladin, 1993), 2.
V. Geberth, Practical Homicide Investigation (New York: Elsevier, 1983),
J. Peterson, S. Mihajlovic, and M. Gilliland, Forensic Evidence and the Police:
The Effects of Scientific Evidence on Criminal Investigations, National Institute
of Justice Research Report, Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office,
<div align="center"><NOBR><a href="index.htm">Contents</a>
| <a href="#" onClick="history.back(); return false;">Previous Page</a>
| <a href="training.htm">Training Calendar</a>
| <a href="http://www.egroups.com/group/crimeandclues">Discussion Forum</a>
| <a href="contact.htm">Contact</a></NOBR></div>
<I>While the information presented here is from reliable sources, there is no substitute for training or personal experience. Before utilizing any technique described here, be sure and check your local regulations and procedures. If you are in doubt as to which technique to use or how to apply it, contact an expert in the field in question.</I>
<I>Crime & Clues- http://crimeandclues.com Copyright © 1998-2000 Daryl W. Clemens</I>
08-01-01, 12:36 AM #5
I had taken the time to read the article that you had presented in the link. It covers basic forensic methods for recovery of uncontaminated evidence. Coupled with the delicacy of DNA collection it presents quite a task to obtain uncontaminated evidence. And this from trained evidence collectors which I am sure mere archeologists are not. Though of different disciplines they have the same basic goal in mind. The recovery of specimens in its natural form. I seem to remember that DNA can be replicated to produce a larger sample, grown from smaller samples when the original is not enough. It would seem logical that if contamination were present that the contamination would also be reproduced, giving an even greater unreliability to the subject at hand to be studied. Multiplied by the amount of error that the contamination represented of the original sample.
08-01-01, 12:11 PM #6
Forgive me for butting in on your seemingly, private, conversation but this is a subject that does worry me a bit. What is to stop the Jurassic Park script from becoming fact? Not being scientific, just joe bloggs on the corner, I do not pretend to understand much of your discussion but, should someone, somewhere, attempt a reconstruction of any kind from this sample, what horror would be "birthed"? Or would it simply be a study, under microscopic laboratory conditions, of the dna structure?
08-01-01, 01:28 PM #7
Please do enter the conversation, Red Devil. I do not believe it is private. Jurassic Park was Hollywood "what if". By what I have been reading DNA doesn't stand up well over time and only in limited cases is there a sample that is not jumbled beyond use, (or perhaps I should say broken up beyond use) at around the 100,000 year mark. This is what makes this find so controversial.
Folllowed by the point that you are dealing with a very small sample which who knows how many people have had a chance to sneeze over, drool, shed skin around, drop hair, and do those disgusting things we humans have no control over but do. Any of which contaminate the sample beyond use.
As for your question, After the 100,000 year mark it will have begun to deteriorate. Bit and pieces coming apart and the chain unraveling until there is no longer a complete readable DNA sample. (the chain also breaks up leaving incomplete bits and parts) At this point the DNA is beyond use as far as cloning a simular type beast. There are possibilities that if enough of a complete chain were found that it might be injected into a "chicken egg" (for example) which would supply the complete chains, the spark of life ( which I personally believe that we will never be able to create), and the necessary reproduction facilities for creating the rest of the body mass. So, lab study it is.
Last edited by wet1; 08-01-01 at 05:19 PM.
08-01-01, 06:19 PM #8
From Much Relieved!
Thanks for the explanation - signed Much Relieved of England!!