DNA Testing on 2,000-Year-Old Bones in Italy Reveal East Asian Ancestry
Researchers excavating an ancient Roman cemetery made a surprising discovery when they extracted ancient mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from one of the skeletons buried at the site: the 2,000-year-old bones revealed a maternal East Asian ancestry.
The results will be presented at the Roman Archeology Conference at Oxford, England, in March, and published in the Journal of Roman Archaeology.
According to Tracy Prowse, assistant professor of Anthropology, and the lead author on the study, the isotopic evidence indicates that about 20% of the sample analyzed to-date was not born in the area around Vagnari. The mtDNA is another line of evidence that indicates at least one individual was of East Asian descent.
Based on her work in the region, she thinks the East Asian man, who lived sometime between the first to second centuries AD -- the early Roman Empire -- was a slave or worker on the site. His surviving grave goods consist of a single pot (which archaeologists used to date the burial). What's more, his burial was disturbed in antiquity and someone was buried on top of him.
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