Sequencing the genome of a Pompeii resident and solving a 2,000 year old mystery

Engadget has an interesting piece (by way of the New York Times) about a joint team of researchers from Italy, Denmark, and the US who recently sequenced the genome of one of ancient Pompeii's most well-preserved skeletal inhabitants. You've likely seen the iconic photo of his skeletal remains, lying in the corner of his dining room, like he just sat there until he was overcome by deadly clouds of volcanic gasses. It has always been a mystery as to why he (and his companion) didn't try and flee. It turns out, he may not have been able to.

With genetic material pulled from his petrous, a dense, pyramid-shaped segment of bone that protects the inner ears, the team found that the male inhabitant of the house suffered from spinal tuberculosis, or what's better known today as Pott diesase. Associated symptoms include back pain and lower body paralysis. "The condition would have forced him to have little mobility," Dr. Pier Francesco Fabbri, one of the anthropologists who contributed to the paper, told The Times. It's very possible the man, who was about 35 years old when he died, would have had difficulty fleeing Pompeii even if he wanted to escape the burning city.

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