Anthropology, University of Oklahoma, Centre for Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zürich
Thursday 8:45-9:00, Ballroom A
High-throughput genomic and proteomic sequencing has opened up dramatic new opportunities to study health and disease, and the demonstrated success of applying these techniques to archaeological material is revolutionizing the field of paleopathology. The recent discovery that human dental calculus preserves abundant, high quality microscopic and biomolecular remains opens up further possibilities and extends the application of these techniques to non-mummified remains previously thought to be out of reach for most biomolecular studies of ancient disease. This paper presents new results from combined metagenomic and metaproteomic analyses of human dental calculus specimens collected from four Medieval individuals with osteological evidence of periodontitis (Dalheim, Germany, c. 1100 CE). We document the presence of more than 500 bacterial taxa known to inhabit the human oral cavity, including 16 bacterial pathogens associated with periodontal disease and caries infection. We further identify proteomic evidence for more than 20 human proteins involved in acute immunological response to bacterial infection. By employing multiple lines of biomolecular evidence, we demonstrate that high-resolution characterization of complex ancient bacterial infections in humans is now within reach. The emerging fields of paleometagenomics and paleometaproteomics are changing the way we think about ancient disease and how archaeological studies can contribute to a medical understanding of health today.