Turkish Journal of Biology




n thermally damaged archaeological bones the quantity, quality, and amplifiability of DNA are very much reliant on both the extent of heating and the environmental conditions of the burial context. In this study we tested the possibility of extracting and amplifying ancient DNA from human bone remains of Herculaneum victims of the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius using a combination of histochemical and molecular methods. Long bone samples with variable degrees of chromatic and morphological alterations consistent with exposure to temperatures of about 300 °C were taken from four specimens. Using histochemical stains, bone cryostat sections from three individuals revealed DNA within osteocyte lacunae but only for one sample the DNA was suitable for PCR amplification obtained, namely from reactions with the primer pair for X and Y amelogenin (AMEL) loci. The relative sequence differed from the homologous trait of AMELX deposited in GenBank for six bases, probably due to degradation processes following death. Our data are indicative that archaeological bones exposed to high temperatures of about 300 °C should be considered for DNA analysis, given the favorable conditions of corpse burial and skeleton preservation, such as those that occurred for the 79 AD victims in Herculaneum and Pompeii.


Ancient DNA, DNA amplification, archaeological bones, 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius, Herculaneum

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