What Microbe Killed the Aztecs?

Students use sequences of DNA found in an ancient Aztec cemetery to identify the possible microbe that sickened and killed many Aztecs between 1545 and 1550. Students also make a phylogenetic tree to compare the relatedness of the ancient DNA samples to modern organisms. 

Teacher Facilitation Handouts

Student Handouts

NOTE: students may need to learn and practice BLAST if they haven't already acquired this skill.

Image of Aztec Artwork:  The Field Museum Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.  Microbe Image:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Domain.  Map:  Badseed based on work by historicair which in turn was based on Madman2001's work. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Image of Aztec Artwork: The Field Museum Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Microbe Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Domain.
Map: Badseed based on work by historicair which in turn was based on Madman2001's work. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.