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Italians to Provide DNA Map of Burnt City’s Grape Seeds


21 December 2006



LONDON, (CAIS) -- A team of Italian archaeologists from University of Milan and the Italian Ministry of Cultural and Natural Heritage has come to the Burnt City, southeast Iran, to implement genetics studies and DNA analysis on grape seeds discovered in this prehistoric city. The studies will be conducted under the supervision of Professor Lorenzo Costantini, a renowned Italian palaeoethnobotanist.


Announcing this news, Dr. Mansour Sayyed Sajadi, director of the archaeology team in Burnt City, said that the studies by the Italians have recently started in Burnt City. He also added that the Italian archaeologists will concentrate on methods used for the cultivation of grapes and the amount of its production in Burnt City during the ancient times and will not undertake any archaeology excavation in the region.


Some edible seeds such as caraway, cumin, wheat, barley, grape, and garlic dated to 5000 years ago had previously been found in Burnt City. At the time, Prof. Costantini carried out studies at Burnt City and took samples of nearly all the botanical items found in this prehistoric site. 


According to Sajadi, identifying and preparing the DNA map of the grape seeds discovered during previous excavation seasons in Burnt City is the main aim of the Italian team during their studies in the Burnt City. “Preparing this DNA map would help us identify how many species of grapes were produced in the region,” said Sajadi.


Discovery of the remains of large amounts of grape seeds and vine roots during the previous excavations in the vicinity of Burnt City revealed that the area which has now turned into an arid zone was once a fertile land in which different kinds of grapes were grown.


Sajadi further added that the result of these studies is anticipated to reveal the ecology of the region and the diet of its inhabitants during the ancient times.


Located 57 kilometers from Zabol in Sistan va Baluchestan Province, the Burnt City covers an area of 150 hectares and was one of the world’s largest cities in the third millennium BCE. It was founded arounf 3200 BCE and flourished as an active centre until it was destroyed in 2100 BCE. The city experienced four stages of civilization and was burnt down three times; hence it was named the ‘Burnt City’.


Ten seasons of archaeological excavations have so far been undertaken in the Burnt City during which large numbers of historic artifacts including the animated figure of a wild-goat (Capra Aegagrus also known as 'Persian desert Ibex') on an earthen goblet, believed to be the first animation work in the history of the world, and a very unique backgammon, which is also said to be the oldest one in the world were found. These discoveries together with the skeleton of a woman having an artificial eyeball unearthed recently in the Burnt City historic site once again pointed to the complicated and well developed civilization that once populated this ancient city.



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