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Pots from ancient shipwreck yield their DNA secrets

Pots from ancient shipwreck yield their DNA secrets

New Scientist


Scraping the barrel can be a surprisingly productive exercise. By doing just that, marine archaeologists have pinned down exactly which commodities were traded by early European civilisations.

The civilisations of two-and-a-half millennia ago relied on trade across the Mediterranean to feed themselves. Yet despite decades studying the routes they followed, we still know “shockingly little” about their trading practices, says Brendan Foley at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. “Before the 17th century AD, there aren’t the kinds of economic data that you need to say anything meaningful about trade,” he says.

That is, in part, because archaeologists have been forced to glean most of their information on ancient trade from analysing the design of artefacts, without any direct information on what was inside them. “Imagine trying to reconstruct the contents of a box by looking at empty containers alone,” he says. Read more on…