Thursday, November 01, 2007

Greek Cargo ID'd from DNA

For the first time, researchers have identified DNA from inside ceramic containers in an ancient shipwreck on the seafloor, making it possible to determine what the ship's cargo was even though there was no visible trace of it.

The findings, by a team from MIT, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Lund University in Sweden, are being reported in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archeological Science.

By scraping samples from inside two of the containers, called amphoras, the researchers were able to obtain DNA sequences that identified the contents of one as olive oil and oregano. The other probably contained wine, and the researchers are conducting further analyses to confirm this.

Brendan Foley, a lecturer in MIT's Program in Science, Technology and Society (STS) and a researcher at WHOI, and Maria Hansson, a biologist at WHOI and at Lund University in Sweden, found the DNA evidence in the remains of a 2,400-year-old shipwreck that lies 70 meters deep near the Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea.