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For the first time, scientists have completely sequenced the genome of a man who died during the Pompeii eruption.
The researchers believe the volcanic ash buried the bodies and protected their DNA from the environment.
Mount Vesuvius erupted nearly 2,000 years ago, burying the Roman city of Pompeii in ash.
When Mount Vesuvius erupted one summer morning in AD 79, the Roman city of Pompeii – and most of its citizens – were frozen in time, buried under tons of volcanic ash. Since explorers rediscovered Pompeii in the 18th century, archaeologists have gradually discovered what life was like there.
Now, for the first time, researchers have fully sequenced the ancient DNA of an individual who died in the Vesuvius explosion.
“It was really surprising that we could get this kind of result,” Gabriele Scorrano, assistant professor of geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study, told Insider, adding, “It looks like this kind of environment has helped conservation in one way or another.”
In a study published Thursday in Scientific Reports, Scorrano and his team examined the remains of two individuals found at the Casa del Fabbro, or Craftsman’s House, which was first discovered in 1933. One was a man in his thirties at the time. of her death, while the other set of remains belonged to a woman in her 50s.
The researchers extracted ancient DNA from parts of the skulls of both sets of remains. Although the team sequenced the DNA of both individuals, only the man’s skull provided enough DNA for full analysis, Scorrano said. Prior to this study, only short sequences of human and animal DNA from Pompeii had been sequenced.
After comparing the sample to the genomes of 1,030 ancient and 471 modern West Eurasian individuals, the researchers found that the human genome bore similarities to modern central Italians, as well as other groups living in Italy during the Roman Empire. However, some genes in the sample matched genes commonly found in people who lived on the island of Sardinia, rather than mainland Italy, which experts say suggests greater genetic diversity across Europe. Italy at the time.
Researchers believe that Vesuvius’ ash cover buried the bodies, protecting the ancient DNA from environmental factors that can deteriorate it, such as oxygen. “The sample had been covered by ash from this eruption. The preservation of the bones is actually very good – they are perfect for collection in the DNA study,” Scorrano told Insider.
The sample also showed possible signs of tuberculosis of the spine, or Pott’s disease – which was endemic in Roman times, but is rare in the archaeological record, as the disease rarely leaves a mark on the bones.
“It seems, according to the bioarchaeologist, that this type of disease may not have allowed them to try to escape,” Scorrano told Insider, adding, “They died in this position because they didn’t didn’t get a chance to run away.”
Scorrano and his team hope their techniques can be applied to other victims caught in the ash flurry nearly 2,000 years ago, to gain a better insight into life in Pompeii before and during the disaster.
“I think our study argues for a more in-depth analysis of individuals from Pompeii,” he told Insider, adding, “Normally when you study a specific site, you have a date range. Here , this is a picture of what happened on 1 afternoon, August 24, 79 AD – we can really come to understand the population at that time.”
Read the original article on Business Insider
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