Hemorrhagic fever virus, human blood, and tissues in Iron Age mortuary vessels

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Journal of Archaeological Science, ISSN: 0305-4403, Vol: 78, Page: 29-39

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Conner J. Wiktorowicz; Bettina Arnold; John E. Wiktorowicz; Matthew L. Murray; Alexander Kurosky
Elsevier BV
Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences
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article description
This study identifies and interprets the proteins present on sherds from six ceramic mortuary vessels from a burial mound near the Heuneburg, an early Iron Age (750–400 BCE) hillfort in southwest Germany, using a novel adaptation of proteomic analysis that identified 166 proteins with high confidence. Surprisingly, among the identified proteins were peptides from Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV), a pathogen previously unknown in this geographic region and time period, as well as peptides from human blood and tissues. These results highlight the first example of a viral cause of death of at least one high-status individual from the Iron Age west-central Europe and provide the first archaeological evidence for the interment of human organs in mortuary vessels in the region. We also demonstrate the suitability and value of a proteomics approach for discovery-based residue analysis of archaeological ceramic vessels and reveal how identification of adsorbed proteins can provide insight into prehistoric mortuary practices.