The DNA of a dead person from Pompeii decrypted

For the first time, a team has managed to analyze the genome of one of the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius.

They remained frozen for eternity. Trapped by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD in the “casa del fabbro” (the blacksmith’s house) in Pompeii, these two unfortunates were among the thousands of victims caused by this dramatic explosion. Their identities are gone forever, but more than 2000 years after their tragic death, the analysis of their DNA allows us to learn a little more about these two individuals (Scientific Reports, May 26, 2022). One of them is a man aged 35 to 40 who suffered from tuberculosis. The second is a woman of just over 50 years old.

It is a real feat to succeed in taking DNA samples under these conditions, notes Céline Bon, paleogenetician at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. This is all the more surprising since the scientists did not use a particular method. This is an extraction at the level of the petrous bone (part of the skull behind the ears, editor’s note), which is very classic. Only DNA…

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