Washington: Ancient graveyard in Italy may help archaeologists and other researchers yield clues on cholera's evolution.
The researchers are excavating the graveyard surrounding the abandoned Badia Pozzeveri church in the Tuscany region of Italy. The site contains victims of the cholera epidemic that swept the world in the 1850s, said Clark Spencer Larsen , professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University.
Finding traces of the pathogen that caused cholera among the human remains could reveal details about how people lived, and died, in this region of Europe.
The bodies of the cholera victims were hastily buried and covered in lime, which hardened like concrete around the bodies. Researchers suspect residents were trying to keep the disease from spreading.
Not just the bones were preserved. The lime trapped soil around the bodies that contains the ancient DNA of bacteria and other organisms that lived in the humans buried there.
The site provides much more than just information on the cholera epidemic. A monastery was founded on the site in 1056 and after it was abandoned in 1408, a church remained until about 50 years ago. Several different cemeteries from different time periods surround the ruins.
Included in the cemeteries are people who died of the Black Death pandemic that ravaged Europe from 1346 to 1353. Many others died from less dramatic causes, but are still of great interest to the researchers.