Sex identification of archaeological human remains based on amplification of the X and Y amelogenin alleles

Marina Faerman, Dvora Filon, Gila Kahila, Charles L. Greenblatt, Patricia Smith, Ariella Oppenheim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Sex identification of archaeological human remains is essential for the exploration of gender differences in past populations. Traditional morphometric analyses fail to identify the gender of incomplete skeletal remains and that of immature individuals. In the present work, we have established a sensitive and reliable method, based on amplification of the single-copy amelogenin-encoding gene (AMG). The Y allele carries a small deletion in the first intron, facilitating the design of distinct X- and Y-specific polymerase chain reactions. Amplification with three primers, two of which are allele-specific, allows unambiguous identification of both X and Y chromosome signals in a single reaction, providing an internal control. For added confidence, the reaction may be performed in separate tubes for each allele. Using this method, the sex was determined from the skeletal remains of 18 individuals, including young children, out of 22 examined from periods ranging from 200 to around 8000 years ago. The state of skeletal preservation ranged from poor to good. Cortical and cranial bones, as well as teeth, were found to provide sufficiently preserved DNA. The success of retrieval of amplifiable DNA was not related either to the period or to the burial site. On the other hand, the method of DNA purification was critical. In our hands, direct DNA purification by Chelex from minute samples of bone/tooth powder gave the best results. This study demonstrates the applicability of the method for gender determination in skeletal remains from different periods.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)327-332
Number of pages6
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 29 Dec 1995

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Dr. Israel Hershkovitz for providing the Neolithic samples. This research was supported by The Israel Science Foundation, administered by The Israel Academy of Scie_n_ces and Humanities, and by The Hebrew University Internal Funds.


  • Ancient DNA
  • gender determination
  • molecular anthropology
  • polymerase chain reaction
  • single-copy gene


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