The first genome of a Pompeii victim opens a window on life in ancient Rome


New technologies reveal new data on residents of a Roman city buried under the ashes of Vesuvius, who was diagnosed with tuberculosis by sequencing the genome of a man between the ages of 35 and 40.

Two skeletons found in Casa del Fabro (Room.)
Two skeletons found at the Casa del Fabro (Room 9) in Pompeiinews of the excavation of antiquity

In the year 79 AD, a cloud of gas and ash covered the city of Pompeii. The matter ejected from the eruption of Vesuvius caused thousands of victims and, at the same time, preserved many bodies, innumerable objects of his daily life, and one. major part of his life. architecture. Nearly two millennia later, an ash sarcophagus providing a unique window on life in the Roman Empire. In the 19th century, the archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli created a technique that allowed to create elaborate casts of victims found in excavations, thanks to the pouring of plaster into small cavities that left the bodies buried in ashes. A way of reconstructing the appearance of the ancient Pompeian with the means of time.

In recent years, new technologies, such as 3D scanners or genetic analysis, have ushered in a new era of what the ruins of Pompeii can teach us. It is published in Thursday magazine scientific report The first sequencing of a human genome was found in the ruins of Pompeii. So far, only small stretches of mitochondrial DNA from human and animal remains have been analyzed. In this case, a team of researchers has examined the remains of two individuals found in the so-called ‘Casa del Artesano’.

The size, structure and length of the skeletons allowed scientists to conclude that one of them belonged to a male aged 35 to 40, while the other belonged to a female over 50 years old. The authors were able to extract and index the ancient. DNA from both individuals, but they have only been able to sequence the complete genome of the male due to several gaps in the sequences derived from the remains of the female.

to find out more

This genetic information has been compared to 1,030 other individuals living in ancient times and 471 modern inhabitants of Europe and Asia Minor. The results indicate that the genome has many similarities with those who live in the center of the Italian peninsula today and with other individuals who lived there during the Imperial era. However, analysis of mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome has also identified clusters of genes found on the island of Sardinia today.

“This does not mean that this person comes from a Sardinian family,” says Thomaz Pinotti, a geneticist at the Universities of Minas Gerais and Copenhagen. “We believe that their maternal and paternal ancestry have a common source of shared Neolithic ancestry in Anatolia. The fact that the lineage is not currently found in mainland Italy is evidenced by the homogenization of genetic ancestry in the Italian peninsula after the Roman Empire. could be explained “or because of Sardinia’s relative isolation”. Based on the finding, the researchers state that the level of genetic diversity on the peninsula during this time may have been higher than previously thought.

TB patient

DNA is inherited from ancestors, meaning that the number of ancestors associated with an individual grows exponentially from generation to generation (2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, etc.). It also means that, in general, populations living in the same location share many ancestry, which allows identification of the origin of genetic ancestry in a particular region or group. “Essentially, our analyzes are based on measuring the number of ancestors shared by different pairs of individuals/populations,” Pinotti says.

On the other hand, analysis of the skeleton allowed them to identify lesions in one of the vertebrae of man. In parallel, they found DNA sequences commonly found in bacteria of the group mycobacterium, which causes tuberculosis. Both findings indicate that it is very likely that the person had been infected with a type of spinal tuberculosis before his death.

destructive analysis

The authors explain that ancient DNA has been successfully recovered because the pyroclastic material released during the eruption provided special protection against environmental factors that degrade genetic material, such as atmospheric oxygen. At the same time, the discovery demonstrates the possibility of recovering genetic information from other human remains from Pompeii through new techniques.

“Although DNA is a relatively stable molecule, it degrades over time in the presence of water and oxygen”, explains Gabriele Scorrano, a researcher in the Department of Biology at the University of Rome. “It’s hard to answer why DNA is too rare for us to sequence, but we know that high temperatures (as in the tropics) significantly shorten the timing of DNA. And since Pompeii bodies were engulfed in high- Temperature ash, we expected to find very little material for analysis.

However, the researchers used an extraction method that managed to get a substantial amount into the densest part of the temporal bone. However the authors clarify that this procedure cannot be used for all residues. “One thing that should be clear is that DNA extraction is a type of destructive analysis,” explains Scorano, “although it is difficult to know how many individuals would be susceptible to DNA analysis in Pompeii had such interventions not been performed.” on a large scale, and at least in a site of such unique conservation and importance”.

according to the norms of

trust project

know more

About the Author

The co-owner & marketing chief of "The Business News", Sravya is also good at Writing and communicating. she has good networking skills. she is really passionate about publishing quality news articles. - - You can reach Her at Facebook:- @sai.sravya.3910

Leave A Response