Code, Narrative, History: Making Sense of Ancient DNA in contemporary culture
Archaeogenetics—the usage of molecular-genetical methods to analyse DNA from ancient humans and animals—is an expanding research field which has received substantial funding and enjoyed much public attention in the past years. Despite the growing interest in archaeogenetics, there is no research on the processes through which historical narratives are created from DNA codes. A DNA code consists of a series of tiny lines without significance. To become meaningful, these series must be compared to other series and described with words (like ”Arab” or ”multi-culture”). But how can we understand the processes through which DNA code is translated into historical narratives? Are these narratives formed by researchers, museums and journalists, or through interaction between these, and other, actors? This research project investigates how wordless DNA-codes are translated into historical narratives. A research team including an archaeologist, a media historian and a historian of ideas follow three archaeogenetic research projects in France, the United Kingdom and Sweden, and analyse the historical narratives which can be connected to the findings of these projects. Through international comparisons, it investigates if and how such narratives are related to the politics, national narratives and traditional historiographies of each country. The project contributes with crucial new knowledge on the interaction between natural science, the humanities, media and popular science.