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Do The Remains Found in Pompeii Show Genetic Links With Africa?

The ancient city of Pompeii, located in Italy, was destroyed and buried by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD. The site has been studied for centuries, but researching the bones and genetics of the human remains found there has been difficult due to the high temperatures that affected the bones. However, a recent study used a combination of different scientific approaches to learn more about the ancient Pompeii population.

Pompeii map

The genetic profile of the first person from Pompeii whose genome was studied was found to be similar to the genetic profile of the central Italian population from the Roman Imperial Age. This suggests that there was some genetic similarity in the Italian peninsula at the time (around 79 AD), even though the area was connected to other Mediterranean populations. The study also found evidence of spinal tuberculosis in one of the remains and looked for ancient DNA from the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.

workers with casts of bodies at pompeii

These findings show that using multiple approaches can be effective in studying ancient humans, and show that it is possible to find ancient DNA in the bones of people from Pompeii. This will help researchers learn more about the genetic history of the Pompeii population. Previous studies were only able to get a small amount of genetic data from the bones of people and animals found in Pompeii, but newer methods that involve analyzing more DNA have made it possible to get more information.

A particularly interesting finding from the study is that some of the Y-DNA found in the ancient Pompeii population belongs to the A-M13 (A1b1b2b) haplogroup. This group of genetic material is mostly found in Eastern Africa (~ 40%), but it has also been found in the Near East (a region that includes Turkey, Yemen, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Oman and Saudi Arabia) and on the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia, Cyprus and Lesbos. This suggests that people with ancestry from Africa lived in the area and that the Roman world, and southern Europe in general, were more genetically diverse than previously believed. This adds to the evidence that the Roman Empire was a place where people from different cultures and ethnicities mixed and challenges the idea that Roman society was homogenous.

Haplogroups A

The study also provides information about the genetic diversity and health of the ancient Pompeii population and can help researchers learn more about the spread and evolution of tuberculosis in the past. The method used in the study offers the potential for more research on the biology and genetics of ancient human populations.

Overall, the study shows that the ancient Pompeii population was more diverse than previously believed and challenges the traditional idea that Roman society was homogenous. It reminds us that the history of human populations is complex and interconnected and that the story of one group is connected to the stories of others.

Reference: “Bioarchaeological and palaeogenomic portrait of two Pompeians that died during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD” by Gabriele Scorrano, Serena Viva, Thomaz Pinotti, Pier Francesco Fabbri, Olga Rickards, and Fabio Macciardi, 26 May 2022, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-10899-1

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