Small organic molecules, lipids, proteins, and DNA fragments can remain stable over centuries. Powerful and sensitive chemical analysis can therefore be used to characterize ancient remains for classical archaeological studies. This bio-ecological dimension of archaeology can contribute knowledge about several aspects of ancient life, including social organization, daily habits, nutrition, and food storage. Faecal remains (i.e. coprolites) are particularly interesting in this regard, with scientists seeking to identify new faecal markers. Here, we report the analysis of faecal samples from modern-day humans and faecal samples from a discharge pit on the site of the ruins of ancient Pompeii. We propose that bile acids and their gut microbiota oxo-metabolites are the most specific steroid markers for detecting faecal inputs. This is due to their extreme chemical stability and their exclusive occurrence in vertebrate faeces, compared to other ubiquitous sterols and steroids.

Bile acids and oxo-metabolites as markers of human faecal input in the ancient Pompeii ruins

Porru, Emanuele;Giorgi, Enrico;Turroni, Silvia;Helg, Riccardo;Silani, Michele;Candela, Marco;Fiori, Jessica;Roda, Aldo
2021

Abstract

Small organic molecules, lipids, proteins, and DNA fragments can remain stable over centuries. Powerful and sensitive chemical analysis can therefore be used to characterize ancient remains for classical archaeological studies. This bio-ecological dimension of archaeology can contribute knowledge about several aspects of ancient life, including social organization, daily habits, nutrition, and food storage. Faecal remains (i.e. coprolites) are particularly interesting in this regard, with scientists seeking to identify new faecal markers. Here, we report the analysis of faecal samples from modern-day humans and faecal samples from a discharge pit on the site of the ruins of ancient Pompeii. We propose that bile acids and their gut microbiota oxo-metabolites are the most specific steroid markers for detecting faecal inputs. This is due to their extreme chemical stability and their exclusive occurrence in vertebrate faeces, compared to other ubiquitous sterols and steroids.
Porru, Emanuele; Giorgi, Enrico; Turroni, Silvia; Helg, Riccardo; Silani, Michele; Candela, Marco; Fiori, Jessica; Roda, Aldo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/807739
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