DNA and lifestyle of Italians to be analysed in new archaeological research project
“Ancient DNA (aDNA) is an invaluable source of information that is being used more and more frequently in studies of prehistory. Along with data on diet and lifestyle, and evidence from archaeological excavations, aDNA helps providing a whole new picture of significant aspects of past societies ,” says Serena Sabatini, archaeologist.
Her new research project will explore the interaction between cultural and genetic variation in Italy before the Roman Empire.
A wealth of new or newly developed natural scientific Methods are being used more and more frequently in archaeology. Serena Sabatini, archaeologist and docent at the Department of Historical Studies, is one of those researchers who are making use of interdisciplinary collaborations in her work. She has now been granted 5.3 SEK million from the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond for new research focusing on Italy.
Interdisciplinary research to find answers
“The goal of the project is to use an entirely interdisciplinary strategy that combines archaeology, aDNA, and to a certain extent stable isotopes, and protein analyses (and thus also diet and lifestyle/health condition assessment),” says Serena Sabatini.
In recent years, a significant number of quite revolutionary studies have radically altered our knowledge about migration and population genetics during Europe’s prehistory. However, the interpretative models chosen to present these results have also come under fire.
“In this project, we want to respond to these criticisms and attempt using a new interdisciplinary working model,” explains Serena Sabatini.
What did people eat in those times?
Serena Sabatini wants to include a pilot study on diet and protein analyses (proteomics) which can provide detailed information about the diet of individuals.
“By combining aDNA and elements from the very latest proteomics studies, we can pave the way for new research strategies, creating the conditions that will give us a way to approach the complex relationship between culture and genetics,” says Serena Sabatini.
She is of course pleased that the Riksbankens Jubileums fond has decided to invest in her research and is looking forward to starting the study.
New analytical methods
The research project will focus on Italy and the people who lived there during the first millennium BC, before the rise of the Roman Empire. The study will be based on a large collection of material with samples from approximately 500 individuals who lived there during that time.
“All analyses will be carried out in cooperation with the Centre for Geogenetics lab in Copenhagen and in particular Gabriele Scorrano, a researcher in evolutionary biology and ecology there,” says Serena Sabatini.
Text: Cecilia Sjöberg
Serena Sabatinis current research projects
- 2022-2026. Coordinator of the Corex project From Correlations to Explanations: towards a new European Prehistory, financed by an ERC Synergy grant and directed by Prof. Kristian Kistiansen.
- 2020-2025. PI of the project The missing link? Sardinia and the Bronze Age Metal Trade between Scandinavia, Atlantic Europe and the Mediterranean (Missing Link) financed by the Swedish Research Council. This project aims to investigate the role of Sardinia in the metal trade between Scandinavia, Atlantic Europe and the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age.
- 2020-2024 Swedish representative in the Management Committee for the EuroWeb COST action CA19131 - Europe through Textiles: Network for an integrated and interdisciplinary Humanities (EuroWeb).
- 2017-2022. Researcher within the The Rise II project (Towards a new European Prehistory. Integrating aDNA, isotopic investigations, language and archaeology to reinterpret key processes of change in the prehistory of Europe) directed by Professor Kristian Kristiansen and financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.
- 2018-today Scientific director of the Understanding Urban Identities (UUI) project, the aim of which is to investigate the urban development in Southern Etruria over the long durée from the Bronze Age until Late Antiquity.