800-Year-Old Troy City Skeleton Provides A Sneak Peek Into The Past

First Posted: Jan 12, 2017 02:01 AM EST

Researchers unearthed the skeleton of a Byzantine pregnant woman, from what is believed to be the part of the ancient city of Troy. The genomic analysis of the bone samples indicated the presence of bacterial genomes belonging to Staphylococcus saprophyticus and Gardnerella vaginalis, which led to the speculation that the woman must have succumbed to bacterial sepsis.

The skeleton is estimated to be 800 years old, buried in a grave that is lined with stones on both its sides. Henrike Kiesewetter, archaeologist in the Project Troia at Tüebingen University, while curating the skeleton observed the presence of two strawberry-shaped calcified nodules near her rib cage.

Pioneer researcher Caitlin Pepperell, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said, "Calcification made little tiny suitcases of DNA and transported it across an 800-year timespan."

The nodules were further analyzed by experts and indicated the presence of "ghost cells" containing the genetic material of the bacterial strains, Fox News reported.

Hendrik Poinar, scientist at the McMaster University's Ancient DNA Centre, said, "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."

The researchers were also able to find out the age and the sex of the unborn fetus of the dead woman. The researchers said that the woman must have been around 30 years old and she was pregnant with a boy when she contracted the bacterial infection and died.

University of Wisconsin-Madison News stated that the skeleton's bone structure indicated her hard-agrarian lifestyle. The study was published in eLIFE journal and states that Staphylococcus saprophyticus is a strain that lived in livestock animals in the ancient past and jumped to humans during the time when human population started to cohabitate with these animals.

Pepperell said, "The strain from Troy belongs to a lineage that is not commonly associated with human disease in the modern world." She also added, "We speculate that human infections in the ancient world were acquired from a pool of bacteria that moved readily between humans, livestock and the environment."

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