Microbiologists have tried to reveal the path taken by the general Hannibal as he tried to cross the Alps in ancient times.
Institute for Global Food Security and School of Biological Sciences at Queen's University Belfast microbiologists may have found the exact location from which Hannibal crossed the Alps in his quest to conquer Rome.
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Hannibal as everyone knows was the head of the army of Carthage. During the Punic War with Rome, he led 30,000 troops, 37 elephants, 15,000 horses and mules across the Alps to fight the foe. The man was a brave and formidable general and his army almost triumphed in its defeat of Rome and the Romans.
Although in the end he was defeated by a narrow margin at Zama, his clever ploys are still regarded as the finest military stratagems of history. His attack on Rome led to the rise of Caesar and the Empire later on and the morphing of Roman Civilization into modern day Europe.
For the past two millennia, many experts have argued about the route this man took in his quest to conquer the largest empire mankind has ever known.
No archaeological evidence had come up until now. However, new evidence shows that Hannibal probably crossed the Alps around the Col de Traversette pass.
The paper containing this evidence is publishing on-line this week in the Journal Archaeometry. Queen's University's microbiologist Dr Chris Allen and his international team of colleagues, led by Professor Bill Mahaney (York University, Toronto), have done this research.
This has been suspected since a long time ago. Yet it had not been accepted by the scientific community. It seems now though that it had been the right hunch all along.
Via a mixture of microbe meta-genome analysis, environmental chemistry, geomorphic/pedological inquiry, pollen studies and other methods, the team of microbiologists showed that a mass animal deposition event occurred near the selfsame place in the past. The 'mass animal deposition' event occurred near Col de Traversette approximately in 2168 cal yr BP, i.e. 218 BC.
The date matches Hannibal’s entry into Rome. The deposition lies around the region where thousands of human beings and animals crossed the pass. The horse manure microbes that were studied showed that it was around the same time in the past that the general along with his troops and animals crossed the point of no return.
Dr Chris Allen, from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast, said:
"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. Over 70 per cent of the microbes in horse manure are from a group known as the Clostridia, that are very stable in soil - surviving for thousands of years. We found scientifically significant evidence of these same bugs in a genetic microbial signature precisely dating to the time of the Punic invasion."
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Canada, USA, France, Republic of Ireland and Estonia's researchers also worked as a leading group on this research project.