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Aspects of ancient Greek trade re-evaluated with amphora DNA evidence

Foley, Brendan LU ; Hansson, Maria LU ; Kourkoumelis, Dimitris P. and Theodoulou, Theotokis A. (2012) In Journal of Archaeological Science 39(2). p.389-398
Abstract
Ancient DNA trapped in the matrices of ceramic transport jars from Mediterranean shipwrecks can reveal the goods traded in the earliest markets. Scholars generally assume that the amphora cargoes of 5th-3rd century B.C. Greek shipwrecks contained wine, or to a much lesser extent olive oil. Remnant DNA inside empty amphoras allows us to test that assumption. We show that short 100 nucleotides of ancient DNA can be isolated and analyzed from inside the empty jars from either small amounts of physical scrapings or material captured with non-destructive swabs. Our study material is previously inaccessible Classical/ Hellenistic Greek shipwreck amphoras archived at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in... (More)
Ancient DNA trapped in the matrices of ceramic transport jars from Mediterranean shipwrecks can reveal the goods traded in the earliest markets. Scholars generally assume that the amphora cargoes of 5th-3rd century B.C. Greek shipwrecks contained wine, or to a much lesser extent olive oil. Remnant DNA inside empty amphoras allows us to test that assumption. We show that short 100 nucleotides of ancient DNA can be isolated and analyzed from inside the empty jars from either small amounts of physical scrapings or material captured with non-destructive swabs. Our study material is previously inaccessible Classical/ Hellenistic Greek shipwreck amphoras archived at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in Athens, Greece. Collected DNA samples reveal various combinations of olive, grape, Lamiaceae herbs (mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage), juniper, and terebinth/mastic (genus Pistacia). General DNA targeting analyses also reveal the presence of pine (Pinus), and DNA from Fabaceae (Legume family); Zingiberaceae (Ginger family); and Juglandaceae (Walnut family). Our results demonstrate that amphoras were much more than wine containers. DNA shows that these transport jars contained a wide range of goods, bringing into question long-standing assumptions about amphora use in ancient Greece. Ancient DNA investigations open new research avenues, and will allow accurate reconstruction of ancient diet, medicinal compounds, value-added products, goods brought to market, and food preservation methods. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Greece, Amphora, Ancient DNA, Shipwreck, Olive, Wine, Trade
in
Journal of Archaeological Science
volume
39
issue
2
pages
389 - 398
publisher
Academic Press
external identifiers
  • wos:000298464300017
  • scopus:82155162426
ISSN
1095-9238
DOI
10.1016/j.jas.2011.09.025
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
7d37f142-3845-43c6-9908-834159a7bcb9 (old id 2358539)
date added to LUP
2012-02-24 07:59:42
date last changed
2017-11-12 03:15:24
@article{7d37f142-3845-43c6-9908-834159a7bcb9,
  abstract     = {Ancient DNA trapped in the matrices of ceramic transport jars from Mediterranean shipwrecks can reveal the goods traded in the earliest markets. Scholars generally assume that the amphora cargoes of 5th-3rd century B.C. Greek shipwrecks contained wine, or to a much lesser extent olive oil. Remnant DNA inside empty amphoras allows us to test that assumption. We show that short 100 nucleotides of ancient DNA can be isolated and analyzed from inside the empty jars from either small amounts of physical scrapings or material captured with non-destructive swabs. Our study material is previously inaccessible Classical/ Hellenistic Greek shipwreck amphoras archived at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in Athens, Greece. Collected DNA samples reveal various combinations of olive, grape, Lamiaceae herbs (mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage), juniper, and terebinth/mastic (genus Pistacia). General DNA targeting analyses also reveal the presence of pine (Pinus), and DNA from Fabaceae (Legume family); Zingiberaceae (Ginger family); and Juglandaceae (Walnut family). Our results demonstrate that amphoras were much more than wine containers. DNA shows that these transport jars contained a wide range of goods, bringing into question long-standing assumptions about amphora use in ancient Greece. Ancient DNA investigations open new research avenues, and will allow accurate reconstruction of ancient diet, medicinal compounds, value-added products, goods brought to market, and food preservation methods. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.},
  author       = {Foley, Brendan and Hansson, Maria and Kourkoumelis, Dimitris P. and Theodoulou, Theotokis A.},
  issn         = {1095-9238},
  keyword      = {Greece,Amphora,Ancient DNA,Shipwreck,Olive,Wine,Trade},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {389--398},
  publisher    = {Academic Press},
  series       = {Journal of Archaeological Science},
  title        = {Aspects of ancient Greek trade re-evaluated with amphora DNA evidence},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2011.09.025},
  volume       = {39},
  year         = {2012},
}