Ancient genome flow

Researchers Hannes Schroeder and Mikkel Johansen Nørtoft from the Section of Evolutionary Genomics at Copenhagen University are on a mission to file all ancient genomes ever published and make them accessible through an interactive online resource. By mapping every single ancient genome in time and space their Ancient Genome Atlas provides an interactive overview of the field of ancient human genomics, allowing the user to follow human migrations and gene flow in “real-time”. A website with a very first prototype was already in place when we were hired to help taking the project to the next level.

Keywords: #research #education #tool  #interactive #datavisualisation

Systemizing complexity

The Atlas to date features over 2000 ancient human genomes spanning the last 50000 years. Each genome is represented by a colored dot with the color being determined by the individual’s genetic ancestry. Our main focus was to create a beautiful yet systematic visual framework for the complex color scheme while moving away from a website to a single tool experience.

Map evolution

The Atlas provides detailed information for each find such as location, radiocarbon date and cultural context along with references to the original literature in combination with archaeological culture and language areas. It will be continuously updated with additional data moving towards global coverage of ancient genome finds. A custom Umbraco admin interface was set up for easy uploading and handling of the tool’s datapoints, colors and written information.

Down the road the team aims to create an interface that allows scientists to contribute with their own data, thus increasing the impact of their own studies while helping to keep the atlas up to date.

"We are striving for positive impact by fostering collaborations between researchers and museum specialists while developing digital content about the science of ancient genomics and the human past designed to engage and educate a broader audience."

Hannes Schroeder, Associate Professor, Section for Evolutionary Genomics,
The GLOBE Institute, University of Copenhagen


While the first version of the Ancient Genome Atlas is now live and accessible to the public the project will not stop here. The team is currently applying for funding to bring the tool to museum audiences collaborating with several museum partners. In addition to that they aim to make the Atlas freely available to schools as an educational tool. We are captivated by this fascinating and ambitious project and are looking forward to our continuing design process with the research team.

Code: Pragmasoft Ignite

Funding: HERA (Humanities in Human Research Area) and the Carlsberg Foundation