Two decades ago archaeologists in northern Africa discovered evidence that an antibiotic was somehow included in diet of ancient peoples, possibly affecting the health of the population. It has been proposed that the causative organisms are Streptomyces aureofaciens - ubiquitous, mold-like, tetracycline-producing bacteria that could have contaminated grain products. Upon consumption, tetracyclines are incorporated into developing or remodeling bone, remaining observable under ultraviolet light for thousands of years. The current project focuses on an analysis of Roman-Egyptian human and animal bone from the Dakhleh Oasis in southwestern Egypt (100 BC to AD 360). Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM) is used to determine whether or not the population had been exposed to antibiotics, taking advantage of tetracycline's natural fluorescent properties. Results show that, though nearly every sample shows tetracycline fluorescence described in previous literature, bone from the Kellis I and Kellis 2 cemeteries display distinct differences in florescent patterning. CLSM allows three dimensional viewing and high-resolution imaging, lending new perspective and increased accuracy to the analysis. Previously published theories regarding the means of exposure and resulting health affects are reconsidered. Further investigation could have implications that overflow their archaeological context due to the multiple uses modem science has for tetracycline therapy.
Dupras, Tosha L.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences
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Maggiano, Corey, "Ancient antibiotics : tetracycline in human and animal bone from the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt" (2002). HIM 1990-2015. 243.