Abstract In spite of past controversies, the field of ancient DNA is now a reliable research area due to recent methodological improvements. A series of recent large-scale studies have revealed the true potential of ancient DNA samples to study the processes of evolution and to test models and assumptions commonly used to reconstruct patterns of evolution and to analyze population genetics and palaeoecological changes. Recent advances in DNA technologies, such as next-generation sequencing make it possible to recover DNA information from archaeological and paleontological remains allowing us to go back in time and study the genetic relationships between extinct organisms and their contemporary relatives. With the next-generation sequencing methodologies, DNA sequences can be retrieved even from samples (for example human remains) for which the technical pitfalls of classical methodologies required stringent criteria to guaranty the reliability of the results. In this paper, we review the methodologies applied to ancient DNA analysis and the perspectives that next-generation sequencing applications provide in this field.