Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Living in Dryden: Former Dryden resident analyzing ancient Roman bones

Living in Dryden: Former Dryden resident analyzing ancient Roman bones

One Democrat's perspective on life in the Town of Dryden

Dryden residents past and present are doing all kinds of amazing things, but it's not every day that I click on a link at the CNN site and find a familiar-looking picture and name:

The remaining [Romans] - commoners, slaves and others - are largely silent. They could not afford tombstones to record their names, and they were buried with little in the way of fancy pottery or jewellery. Their lives were documented by the elites, but they left few documents of their own.

Now, Kristina Killgrove, an archaeologist from Vanderbilt University, wants to tell their story by sequencing their DNA, and she is raising donations to do it. "Their DNA will tell me where these people, who aren't in histories, were coming from," she says. "They were quite literally the 99% of Rome."

…Since 2007, Killgrove has been studying 200 skeletons recovered from lower-class graves excavated outside Rome's city walls. As they went about their lives, these Romans incorporated chemical isotopes from their water, food and environment into their bones and teeth. By measuring the levels of these isotopes, Killgrove could reconstruct the lives of her subjects.

Amazing stuff, all worth reading. I took Latin in high school and always found the Romans amazing - but figured that even though it was one of the calmer times in human history, there were only a few people really enjoying it.

(Killgrove taught archeology at SUNY Cortland while she was here, and is apparently at Vanderbilt now.)