Biomolecular Palaeoanthropology in the Welker Group
The Welker group studies human evolution across the last 1 million years, primarily through the study of ancient proteins and associated biomolecules preserved in the skeletal remains of hominins and associated fauna.
We are interested in reconstructing human evolution over the past one million years. During this period, hominin populations diversified, adapted to local and regional environments, and accrued significant behavioural changes evident in the archaeological record. We utilize biomolecular methods, in particular palaeoproteomics, to focus on three related aspects of human evolution research in this time period:
- Genetics. We utilize ancient protein sequence information to address questions of population affinity and phylogenetic relationships between hominin fossils at a global scale.
- Physiology. We aim to develop a holistic view on the biomolecular content of the hominin skeleton.
- Behaviour. We study fauna datasets using palaeoproteomics methods to address questions on hominin subsistence strategies, animal species selection, their usage in relation to bone artefact production, and human-carnivore interactions.
To achieve these goals, we develop and apply novel methods that enhance ancient protein recovery while minimizing sample size requirements. We believe that by collaborating with a range of diverse specialists, our research on ancient humans provides insights into aspects of health and environment relevant to people today.
- Welker et al. 2020. The dental proteome of Homo antecessor. Nature 580, 235-238.
- Chen et al. 2019. A late Middle Pleistocene Denisovan mandible from the Tibetan Plateau. Nature 569, 409-412.
- Lanigan et al. 2020. Multi-protease analysis of Pleistocene bone proteomes. Journal of Proteomics 228, 103889.
European Research Council (Starting Grant 948365-PROSPER)