Lecture / Reading

A 12,000-year Genetic History of Rome and the Italian Peninsula

Sponsored by Archaeology Center


Wednesday, February 6, 2019
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
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Ancient DNA has become a powerful tool for studying the human past. This talk highlights our team’s multidisciplinary approach to analyzing new genomic evidence from Rome and the Italian Peninsula in the context of the extensive archaeological and historical record of the region. We have built a time series of 134 ancient genomes that spans the last 12,000 years, from the Upper Paleolithic to the present, allowing us to present a contextually-situated discussion of genomic changes through time. This approach allows us to study changes ranging from individual traits of interest, such as lactase persistence, to broad population-level shifts. We see evidence that as Rome grew from a small city to an empire encompassing the entirety of the Mediterranean - or Mare Nostrum, ‘our sea’, as the Romans called it - and beyond, the city of Rome became a mosaic of inhabitants from across the empire and remained so even after the fragmentation of the Western Roman Empire. I will illustrate these general trends with case studies, such as paleogenomic data from Isola Sacra, the necropolis for the port towns of Ostia and Portus, in which contextualizing archaeological and textual evidence have been instrumental in understanding the genetic structure of the Roman population in our study.

Hannah Moots is a PhD Candidate in the Stanford Archaeology Center and the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. Her research draws on bioarchaeological, paleoenvironmental and genomic lines of evidence to investigate connections between environmental change and human health. Her work examines the recursive relationship biological and cultural changes - such as pathogen burden, mobility patterns, and dietary shifts that came about in the Neolithic transition. She holds an MPhil in Archaeological Science from the University of Cambridge and her past research includes an archaeogenetic analysis of the dispersal of several domesticated crops, including taro (Colocasia esculenta) and broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), and a paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the aridification of the Saharan Desert over the last 5,000 years at Gobero.