Scientists Successfully Sequence the DNA of Man From the Pompeii Eruption for the First Time

In the year 79 CE, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city of Pompeii under 23 feet of rubble and ash. The accident claimed the lives of almost 2,000 individuals, many of whom perished in their own houses.

One victim’s DNA has been completely sequenced for the first time. As a result of their investigation, we now know much more about the individuals who lived in Pompeii.

The DNA of two persons whose bones were recovered at the Casa del Fabbro in 1914 was studied in a study published in Nature. One of the victims was a male in his 30s or early 40s, while the other was a lady in her 50s.

Their dining area, or triclinium, was littered with the remains of a chaise couch they had been sleeping on. The fact that they were most likely eating a leisurely dinner at the time of the accident is not out of the ordinary.

[Read: Holding Babies Changes Their DNA, New Study Finds]

More than half of those who perished inside the town’s buildings are said to have been uninformed that a volcanic eruption was possible or believed it to be low owing to the area’s frequent ground earthquakes.

Using DNA extracted from the petrous bone near the skull’s base, they determined the victims’ gender, age, and height. The male was around 5-foot-4, while the woman was about 5-foot-5. They were able to sequence the entire genome of the guy even though the woman’s DNA had gaps in the sequences. Human and animal bones from Pompeii have hitherto yielded only short strands of mitochondrial DNA.

So, what did they learn? First, they discovered that his DNA resembled that of people living now in central Italy as well as those from the Roman Imperial Era. However, scientists also found that Sardinians had a distinct set of genes absent from those residing on the mainland at the time.

This shows that the genetic diversity of the Italian Peninsula may be greater than previously believed. They also discovered that the individual had spinal tuberculosis, which was prevalent at the time.

There is a lot of value in this knowledge when it comes to piecing together the Roman Empire. It also offers researchers optimism that they may be able to analyze more DNA in the future. Pompeii victims’ DNA may be shielded from oxygen by the volcanic ash that encased the city; thus, complete sequencing of more victims may be on the horizon.

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