In addition to the rich finds in the ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii, there is now another source of information. For the first time, experts have succeeded in extracting appreciable amounts of genetic material from the remains of a victim of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. As reported by the team surrounding Gabriele Scorrano of the University of Tor Vergata in Rome, the deceased was likely local residents. The study is currently published in Scientific Reports. The team compared its genomes to 1,030 ancient and 471 modern genomes. The analysis indicates that the DNA has commonalities with modern Italians as well as the inhabitants of central Italy during the Roman Empire period, the team wrote.
The genetic material comes from one of the skeletons examined in the study, which came from the Casa del Fabro – the “Mourning House” – that was excavated between 1914 and 1933. Only from one of them, the remains of a 35- to 40-year-old man Overall, the working group obtained genetic material covering about 40 percent of the total length of the genome. The other skeleton, the skeleton of a woman over 50, provided only a tenth of a percent of the entire genome, too little for analysis.
The study’s main finding is that such analyzes are possible – and should also be performed on other skeletons. The team wrote that the findings provided a basis for reconstructing the genetic history of the Pompeii population. In addition, the result indicates a high level of genetic diversity in Roman Italy, because the genome also contains genes found almost exclusively on Sardinia, and analysis of the main component of the genome also indicates gene flow from Asia Minor.
In addition, not all of the analyzed genome came from the victim of the volcano itself, as it turned out later. Damage to the skeletal spine had already indicated that a pathogen had invaded the bone – and experts concluded that the likelihood of an individual developing skeletal tuberculosis was high. In fact, Scorrano’s team isolated about 14,000 base pairs belonging to the genus Mycobacterium assigned, which also includes the causative agent of tuberculosis, Mycobacterial tuberculosishe heard.
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