The statement, compiled and signed by 68 researchers from 31 countries, has been initiated by David Reich's laboratory at the Harvard Medical School. The starting point was an online, global, and multidisciplinary workshop in November 2020 focused on discussing ethical issues and guidelines for archaeogenetic research.

The rapid growth of ancient DNA and its impact on archaeology (and other fields) has led to calls for a discussion about the ethical standards to govern such research. The best practices for sampling of human remains for scientific analysis and engagement with stakeholder groups are key ethical discussions researchers are having about ancient DNA. While some guidelines have been previously proposed, there is no "one-size fits all" approach to ancient DNA ethics because of the notable variation in research contexts worldwide. What has been missing is a set of principles that can apply everywhere around the world that a substantial number of researchers from different disciplines and based in different places around the world agree to follow.

Participants of the workshop and coauthors of the paper agreed on the need to establish an international and global guideline, to which the scientific communities of geneticists, anthropologists and archaeologists can adhere and which sets out basic ethical rules that can be applied in ancient DNA research.

These five guidelines detailed in the paper are the followings:

(1) Researchers must abide by all regulations in the places where they work and from which the human remains originate.
(2) Researchers must prepare a detailed plan prior to beginning any study.
(3) Researchers must minimize damage to human remains.
(4) Researchers must ensure that data are made available following publication to allow critical reexamination of scientific findings.
(5) Researchers must engage with stakeholders and ensure respect and sensitivity to other stakeholder perspectives.

As coauthors of this article, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy and our Institute of Archaeogenomics is committed to adhere to these guidelines, and together with our staff, we believe that they will help to cultivate the field of science in accordance with appropriate ethical standards of investigating human remains.

We consider it extremely important to discuss in detail the design, timing and expected outcome of the studies with stakeholders before beginning our practical work. As part of the professional work, we should regularly consult with the relevant surveyors, archaeologists and anthropologists, and through these consultations our goal should be to implement joint, interdisciplinary work.

DNA samples are taken by us following ever-evolving procedures with minimal disruption to biological findings. We store the intermediate DNA products of the work leading to the results, and our data becomes freely available after publication. At the same time, we aim to distribute our results as broadly as possible and communicate them in such a way as to prevent their possible misinterpretation and misuse.

The results of archaeogenetics must play an important role in understanding our past. However, they cannot serve as a basis for the exclusion of certain groups or the ideological (power or territorial acquisition) policies of other groups.

Full translations of the article have been made in 24 languages (and also in Hungarian among them) to ensure its accessibility to people around the world who might have stakes in ancient DNA research in their regions.

To whom correspondence should be addressed in the AIG RCH: Anna Szécsényi-Nagy (), in the IA RCH and RGK DAI: Eszter Bánffy (; )


Interviews & commentary videos of the coauthors worldwide: