Skip to comments.Ancient Roman gluten death seen: Young woman's skeleton shows 'signs of disease'
Posted on 04/07/2010 7:55:41 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
An Italian doctor claims to have found the first Italian case of death from gluten intolerance in a female skeleton uncovered at an Ancient Roman site.
The skeleton was found in the ancient town of Cosa, today's Ansedonia, in southern Tuscany.
Giovanni Gasbarrini, a doctor at Rome's Gemelli Hospital, examined bone DNA from the woman, who died in the first century AD at the age of 18-20.
Gasbarrini, whose study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, noted that the young woman's jewelry indicated she came from a wealthy family but her DNA suggested she died of malnutrition.
Gluten intolerance, or coeliac disease, prevents proper absorption of nutrients, leading to severe intestinal problems, physical wasting, and even lymphomas.
The skeleton was unusually small and showed signs of osteoporosis or bone weakness, Gasbarrini pointed out.
He said that because of her privileged circumstances the woman probably had a rich diet including wheat, a food packed with gluten.
Gluten intolerance affects an estimated one in 150 people but is rarely fatal today because its symptoms are easily spotted and sufferers avoid all foods containing gluten.
The first cases in history are believed to have been diagnosed by a celebrated ancient Greek physician, Aretaeus of Cappadocia (first century AD), who identified children in agricultural communities who presented stomach problems typical of the disease.
The latest discovery "could help reconstruct the phylogenetic tree of the disease," Gasbarrini said.
(Excerpt) Read more at ansa.it ...
Is it just me, or has this week seemed exceptionally rich in archaeology and history news? And I've not yet posted even half of the stuff.
· Discover · Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo · Google ·
· The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
Terrific race, the Romans.
I saw the claim not long ago that the problem was first diagnosed in the Roman period.
Recalling that the Greeks went to Denmark in search of amber, and then sailed up the Gulf of Bothnia to see the Sa'ami ski, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they brought back at least one individual with the genes for gluten intolerance.
Give that 2 or 3 generations to work itself out in a small village, and next thing you know you'd have lots and lots of cousins producing lots and lots of other cousins with the same autosomal recessive!
Thank goodness they didn't demand the guy teach them Curling ~ or, maybe they did ~ Bocci looks a lot like Curling.
Too bad the Romans did not have Obamacare back then. Not only would this girl still be alive today, but we would also be living in the land of Caesars where Christians were persecuted.
I was being semi-facetious with my post. However, I agree with you. To complete the story, the Roman Empire only had a formal "Christian Persecution Policy" from about 250AD until 310AD, a period of civil war. That, however, did not stop Domitian, Nero and Caligula from terrorizing Christians.
Having said that, though, there are numerous instances of Christians being persecuted by Roman citizens, especially in the 2nd century AD.
Gluto-solvo farina ex valetudo repono subsisto is.
Pliny's letter to Trajan on the topic: "What do I do about the Christians?" I find very revealing -- (and Trajan's response, too!) Trajan makes his opinion very, very clear. You cannot prosecute someone because you suspect he is a Christian, you prosecute him for the crime (arson, murder) you suspect he committed.
The Romans had a lot of misunderstandings about Christianity - initially, it was thought to be a weird sect that practiced cannibalism -- the "blood of Christ" was misunderstood to mean drinking of human blood, etc.
The group that had the worst wrap from the Romans during this period were the Jews. Nero, Vespasian, Titus Domitian were all horrible to the Jews and to Jerusalem. Trajan was a breath of fresh air, then Hadrian returns with gusto. IMHO, the Jews had it far worse.
Initially, many early Christian congregations held two "services" a week. Sunday was a worship service open to all. Wednesday was a closed service to those with commitments to Christ. History does not really tell us what went on in the closed services, but the Bishop of Rome strongly suggested that congregations either stop the Wednesday services or open them up to all. Some historians think this "secrecy" helped fuel the misunderstanding you have described.
You know quite a bit about the Roman Empire and the early church. How did you get to know so much. I am impressed!
First, it is not true that gluten intolerance is easily diagnosed. It is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.
Second, it is very difficult to avoid wheat or products containing wheat.
It's incredible how much wheat is used in food processing. Shredded cheese is dusted with flower. The majority of soups have wheat ingredients. It is even difficult to find ice cream without wheat added. No more cakes, cookies, brownies, non-frozen breads, etc, etc.
Gluten intolerance sucks.
My autistic grandson was placed on a gluten free diet for a while, thinking that it might help him. It did not, but the year he was on it was pure torture for him and all around him.
Always loved the Roman civilization. Received a degree in classics, many, many, many years ago. How did you come by studying the early Christians?
I am an engineer by training. I am a closet genealogist and that interest turned me into a an amateur historian. I have taught classes on the early christian church with special emphasis on it relationship with the Roman Empire. I find this fascinating, especially as we relate to how the learnings might apply to society today.
My dad has it. It seems more of a battle to avoid products that are high in it. So staying away from breads as much as possible. As you said, the other stuff you can’t do a whole lot about but keeping the amount in the body as low as possible is the best he can do.
As an engineer, you would appreciate the section in the letters from Pliny to Trajan, in which Pliny has uncovered tremendous fraud and abuses in the province of Bithynia. 3,500,000 sesterces spent on a aqueduct that doesn’t work — 10,000,000 sesterces on a theater with improper foundation (cracks in the walls)— considering that Trajan’s architect was the very famous Apollodorus, (Harbor at Ostia and the Pantheon), Trajan was not too happy with the thought that slip shod engineering was occurring in other regions of the empire.
It has indeed!