Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version

January 2008


Citation: Reinhard KJ, Chaves SAM, Iñiguez AM (2008) Chloroplast aDNA in Prehistoric Texas Coprolites: Evidence of Contamination, Medicine, and Diet. Journal of Archaeological Science (in press).


Molecular analysis of coprolites from Hinds Cave, Texas recovered chloroplast DNA sequences. The sequences were interpreted as evidence of diet. We analyzed 19 Hinds Cave coprolites to evaluate the potential sources of the chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) and compared our results to previous studies. This review shows that some cpDNA sequences could be from well-known prehistoric plants foods. Some other sequences could have come from ambient plant material in the guts of small animals eaten by humans in antiquity. Using pollen concentration analysis, we identify sources of ambient plant material which could have been inhaled or imbibed. It is even possible that cpDNA sequences are from proplastids within ambient pollen grains themselves. However, three sequence types cannot be explained as resulting from only dietary or ambient sources. We suggest instead that these might be from medicinal or hallucinogenic plants. We compared these three sequences to existing sequences in the GenBank. We found that these sequences are 100% matches for Rhamnus, Fouquieria, and Solanum.