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Evidence of pathogens in ancient DNA could help explain the fall of two civilizations


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A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the British School at Athens and Temple University has found evidence of pathogens in the teeth of individuals from the Bronze Age that could explain why two ancient civilizations failed. In their paper published in the journal Current Biology, the group describes their genetic study of teeth found inside a cave called Hagios Charalambos on the island of Crete.

Prior research has shown that the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the Akkadian Empire, both Bronze Age civilizations, experienced sudden declines in population several thousand years ago. It has been suggested that climate change and/or other unknown factors led to the decline, which also resulted in damage to infrastructure, reductions in trade and major cultural changes. In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence suggesting that diseases could have been behind the decline.


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