February 27, 2007

Mysteries from Petrarch's tomb

From the paper:
The mtDNA sequence obtained from the rib (HVRI motif: 126 193 311) is a J2 and it was only described twice in a database of 6216 sequences [13], once in the Middle East and once in Italy (frequency 0.00032). The tooth mtDNA sequence, on the contrary, is more frequent; it is an H* (HVR I motif: 129), found 52 times in the same database (frequency 0.008365) among various sites in Italy (N = 2), Iberia (N = 27), the Middle East (N = 4) and Souss (North Africa) (N = 1).


The reassembled skeleton bore evidence of injuries compatible with those mentioned by Petrarca during his lifetime.
Interestingly Petrarch was from Tuscany, which may be relevant given the recent work on the origins of the Etruscans.

Forensic Sci Int. 2007 Feb 21; [Epub ahead of print]

Genetic analysis of the skeletal remains attributed to Francesco Petrarca.

Caramelli D et al.

We report on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis of the supposed remains of Francesco Petrarca exhumed in November 2003, from the S. Maria Assunta church, in Arqua Padua (Italy) where he died in 1374. The optimal preservation of the remains allowed the retrieval of sufficient mtDNA for genetic analysis. DNA was extracted from a rib and a tooth and mtDNA sequences were determined in multiple clones using the strictest criteria currently available for validation of ancient DNA sequences, including independent replication. MtDNA sequences from the tooth and rib were not identical, suggesting that they belonged to different individuals. Indeed, molecular gender determination showed that the postcranial remains belonged to a male while the skull belonged to a female. Historical records indicated that the remains were violated in 1630, possibly by thieves. These results are consistent with morphological investigations and confirm the importance of integrating molecular and morphological approaches in investigating historical remains.


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