Dr. Carney Matheson


Academic Qualifications: 
  • PhD (Biochemistry), University of Queensland 
  • Postgraduate Diploma of Science (Biochemistry), University of Queensland
  • BSc (Biochemistry), University of Queensland
  • BA (Anthropology/Classics & Ancient History), University of Queensland
Research Interests: 

Dr Carney Matheson applies analytical techniques to the study of biomolecules from the past. His research focuses on the recovery of proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, fatty acids, alkaloids, lectins and other compounds to address research questions in forensic science, medical science and archaeology. He also studies the processes of biomolecular degradation of these molecules limiting our ability to recover and analyse these ancient biomolecules. His  research includes; method development for recovery of macromolecules from biological material. 

Biomolecular Degradation

The biochemistry of molecular degradation and the processes like necrosis and apoptosis are integral to our understanding of the nature and structure of biomolecules. An understanding of these degraded biomolecules will aid in their successful retrieval and analysis. Methods to detect the types of damage helps identify the molecular degradation processes in which these molecules have undergone. While the repair of biomolecules recovered from degraded tissues, such as forensic and archaeological remains, helps to retrieve greater amounts of information. Particularly the information that can be recovered from nucleic acids (nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, viral and messenger RNA)

Archaeological & Forensic Residue Analysis

Residues are the trace amountot material that can be found on an object. Residues can be organic or inorganic and Dr Carney Matheson analyses these residues on archaeological and forensic objects. Using microscopy, biochemical, chemical and molecular analysesthese residue can be identified and interpreted. Residues can help to characterise diet, tool function (in conjunction with use-wear analysis), manufacture, technology, resource exploitation and elucidate past lifeways. One of Dr Matheson's current research project is the residue analysis of Ötzi the iceman a 5,300-year-old frozen mummy for Northern Italy.

Molecular Archaeology - Ancient DNA

Using molecular techniques Dr Carney Matheson analyses nucleic acids from a wide range of biological tissues and residues. This presents a wealth of opportunity to investigate questions of human, animal, microbial and plant genetics. Analysing all forms of nucleic acids including mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), nuclear DNA (nDNA), chloroplast DNA (cpDNA), bacterial DNA and RNA. Understanding the taphonomic process (physical, chemical and biological changes post-mortem) that affect the state and preservation of ancient or degraded nucleic acids in biological remains is integral to the success in recovery of ancient DNA. One current research project is to understand Jewish genetic history. 

Archaeological Chemistry

Archaeological chemistry includes applying analytical chemistry to characterise, identify and understand materials in the past. To identify material being used for manufacture, materials being used in cave art, materials being used in any other technology. 

Molecular Paleopathology

Molecular pathology and palaeopathology explores the molecular confirmation or identification of disease in ancient, modern and archived biological samples. The analysis for disease identification in degraded biological remains provides a wealth of information into epidemiology, evolutionary medicine, pathology and health. Dr Matheson’s research explores inherited and infectious (parasitic, bacterial and viral) diseases using molecular markers on archival and archaeological remains. These avenues of research focus on the history of the disease, its frequency in the past and evolutionary changes in the host and pathogen through temporal and spatial frameworks. Medical archived specimens and ancient samples are the ideal static population for disease linkage studies for resistance genes to diseases.

Forensic Molecular Biology

Optimisation of techniques to obtain macromolecules from degraded biological material has obvious implications for forensic science. Optimisation of nucleic acid markers for archaeological material are perfectly suited to forensic analysis of degraded samples and  biological material containing compounds that inhibit molecular techniques commonly used.