Ancient excrement shedding light on where did Hannibal cross the Alps

Crossing the Alps by Hannibal and the Carthaginian army to invade Rome during the Second Punic War is considered historic and one of the greatest military campaigns of all the time. For the first time, researchers will be able to know the pathway for the same.

Despite the fact that the event has been well-documented, archeologists have never been sure where the army passed through the mountains. Now, researchers from Queen’s University Belfast have uncovered layers of ancient animal dung near a pond by Col de Traversette, a pass where Hannibal’s army crossed through during the ancient times.

The researchers have focused on the pond because it was only one water source that was big enough along the route that could be shared by many animals. Using different tests, the researchers have assessed the layer of excrement. The tests included genetic analysis, environmental chemistry and pollen analysis.

“The deposition lies within a churned-up mass from a 1-metre thick alluvial mire, produced by the constant movement of thousands of animals and humans”, affirmed Dr. Chris Allen, from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast.

The researchers said that more than 70% of the microbes in horse manure belong to a ground known as the Clostridia, which are very stable in soil and can survive for thousands of years. As per the research team, they have found very important evidence of these bugs in a genetic microbial signature dating to the time of the Punic invasion.

The team is planning to conduct further genetic sequencing on the excrement to learn further about Hannibal’s crossing and to know how many men, horses and elephants were with the army. The findings have been published in the journal Archaeometry.

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