Troy, the ancient city, home to one of the greatest mythological characters Hector, is in the headlines. However, this time round, it is not for the legend but for an ancient bacterium that was found in one of the excavation sites close to the city.
Archaeologists excavating a burial site discovered the skeleton of a woman that dated back to almost 800 years.
By studying the structure of her skull, researchers opine that the woman was about 30 years old and was pregnant at the time of her death. The skeleton, according to the experts, reflect a hard agrarian existence.
The Mystery Material
However, the most important discovery is what they found inside the skeleton, which revealed the possible cause of her demise. Inside the skeleton, researchers got hold of two calcified nodules almost the size of a strawberry. The nodules were found partially hidden near the chest's base, right beneath the ribs.
Caitlin Pepperell from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the one who analyzed the nodules and found the mineralized "ghost cells" along with microfossils that were preserved well and bears a close resemblance to genus Staphylococcus, a bacteria family that has the highly pathogenic species S. aureus.
"Amazingly, these samples yielded enough DNA to fully reconstruct the genomes of two species of bacteria, Staphylococcus saprophyticus and Gardnerella vaginalis, which infected the woman and likely led to her death," says Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University, who is an expert in ancient DNA.
Pepperell noted that the amount of integrity of this ancient DNA is overwhelming. One usually get less than 1 percent of the target organism. She added that the nodules are composed of both the human and bacterial DNA.
However, nearly 31 percent to 58 percent of the preserved DNA was directly from the bacteria, which infected the deceased woman. Along with this, researchers have also identified an ancient Y chromosome DNA, which is likely to be that of her male fetus.
Of all the skeletons, more than half bore signs of hard manual labor, which resulted in the deterioration of their spine and joints. Studies revealed that people of that era grappled with physical strain and infectious diseases. Therefore, very few could make it over the age of 50.
Newborns also suffered a similar fate, as most them failed to go past the infant stage. From the little information available on the food habits of the late Byzantine era, their diet consists of fruits such as figs and dates, which led to an enormous decay of tooth in the late Byzantine population.