Study of human remains of victims of the Vesuvius eruption shows that men and women of ancient Rome had different diets

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European researchers, led by the BioArCh team of the University of York (United Kingdom), have developed a new method to analyze the amino acids present in skeletons of the inhabitants of the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum in the Italian region of Campania, which was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 The research was published this Wednesday in the Science Advances magazine.

The research group, funded by the European Commission, has as purpose find the exact period of arrival of agriculture and study the impact that the Neolithic revolution had on the human diet of the Western Mediterranean regions. The debate on the origins of agriculture is not yet considered closed and is now being addressed through the application of new biomolecular analyzes of bone remains, such as DNA and stable isotope analysis.

Scientists have analyzed the collagen in the skeletal remains of 17 adult skeletons, eleven men and six women, who perished after the eruption. This is the first application of this new advanced technique to human remains in the Mediterranean region.

Professor Oliver Craig, BioArCH Director of the Department of Archeology, emphasized that “The remains of those who perished at Herculaneum in AD 79 provide a unique opportunity to examine the lifestyles of an ancient community that lived and died at the same time. Historical sources often allude to differences in access to the foods in Roman society, but they rarely provide direct or quantitative information, “noted the lead author of the study.

Archaeologists have concluded that the ancient Romans had a differentiated diet by sex. Research reveals that women ate more locally grown meat, eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables, while men ate fish and grains, the most expensive products at the time. Differences in diets can arise from different occupations or restrictions caused by unequal distribution of power.

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Silvia Soncin, one of the authors of the research, details that her colleagues suppose that “men were more likely to engage directly in fishing and maritime activities, generally occupied more privileged positions in society and freed themselves from slavery at a younger age, giving them greater access to expensive products. “

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