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HISTORY
Italian researchers discover 14 descendants of Leonardo Da Vinci living in Tuscany
Historians are searching for relatives of the Italian Renaissance artist as a study of his genealogy aims to ‘better understand his genius’.
Published: 7 July 2021 13:37 CEST
Vinci, the Tuscan village where Leonardo Da Vinci was born. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
The researchers behind the project, which has spanned several decades, say they have so far found 14 living relatives aged one and 85.
All of them live in the region of Tuscany, where the painter, scientist, engineer and architect was born in 1452.
READ ALSO: Eight things you might not know about Leonardo Da Vinci
The findings form part of a decades-long project, led by art historians Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato.
The study’s findings, published in the Human Evolution journal, document the male line over the past 690 years, through 21 generations.
Though Da Vinci never married and had no children, he had at least 22 half-brothers, according to researchers.
Born in the Tuscan town of Vinci, he was the illegitimate son of a local notary.
READ ALSO: Vinci, the Tuscan paradise where Leonardo’s genius bloomed
Vezzosi told the Ansa news agency that by 2016 “we had already identified 35 of Leonardo’s living relatives, but they were mostly indirect, in the female line, as in the best-known case of the director Franco Zeffirelli.”
“So they were not people who could give us useful information on Leonardo’s DNA and in particular on the Y chromosome, which is transmitted to male descendants and remains almost unchanged for 25 generations”.
He said the 14 living descendants identified in the study, through painstaking research over the decades, were from the male line.
READ ALSO: Da Vinci’s ‘claw hand’ left him unable to hold palette: researchers
“They are aged between one and 85, they don’t live right in Vinci but in neighbouring towns as far away as Versilia (on the Tuscan coast) and they have ordinary jobs such as a clerk, a surveyor, an artisan,” Vezzosi said.
The relatives’ DNA samples will be analysed in the coming months by the international Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project, led by the Jesse Ausubelof Rockefeller University in New York and supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.
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HISTORY
Italian archaeologists uncover slave room at Pompeii in ‘rare’ find
Pompeii archaeologists said Saturday they have unearthed the remains of a "slave room" in an exceptionally rare find at a Roman villa destroyed by Mount Vesuvius' eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.
Published: 6 November 2021 14:46 CET
Updated: 8 November 2021 15:51 CET
Archaeologists said the newly-discovered room in Pompeii likely housed slaves charged with maintaining chariots.  Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.
The little room with three beds, a ceramic pot and a wooden chest was discovered during a dig at the Villa of Civita Giuliana, a suburban villa just a few hundred metres from the rest of the ancient city.
An almost intact ornate Roman chariot was discovered here at the start of this year, and archaeologists said Saturday that the room likely housed slaves charged with maintaining and prepping the chariot.
READ ALSO: 8 things you probably didn’t know about the Romans
“This is a window into the precarious reality of people who rarely appear in historical sources, written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite,” said Pompeii’s director general Gabriel Zuchtriegel.
Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.
The “unique testimony” into how “the weakest in the ancient society lived… is certainly one of the most exciting discoveries in my life as an archaeologist,” he said in a press release.
Pompeii was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing those who hadn’t managed to leave the city in time. They were either crushed by collapsing buildings or killed by thermal shock.
The 16-square metre (170-square feet) room was a cross between a bedroom and a storeroom: as well as three beds – one of which was child sized – there were eight amphorae, stashed in a corner.
Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.
The wooden chest held metal and fabric objects that seem to be part of the harnesses of the chariot horses, and a chariot shaft was found resting on one of the beds.
The remains of three horses were found in a stable in a dig earlier this year.
“The room grants us a rare insight into the daily reality of slaves, thanks to the exceptional state of preservation of the room,” the Pompeii archaeological park said.
READ ALSO: Four civilizations in Italy that pre-date the Roman Empire
Image: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.
Experts had been able to make plaster casts of the beds and other objects in perishable materials which left their imprint in the cinerite — the rock made of volcanic ash — that covered them, it said.
The beds were made of several roughly worked wooden planks, which could be adjusted according to the height of the person who used them.
The webbed bases of the beds were made of ropes, covered by blankets.
While two were around 1.7 metres long, one measured just 1.4 metres, and may therefore have belonged to a child.
The archaeological park said the three slaves may have been a family.
Archaeologists found several personal objects under the beds, including amphorae for private things, ceramic jugs and what might be a chamber pot.
The room was lit by a small upper window, and there are no traces or wall decorations, just a mark believed to have been left by a lantern hung on a wall.
“This incredible new discovery at Pompeii demonstrates that today the archaeological site has become not only one of the most desirable visitor destinations in the world, but also a place where research is carried out and new and experimental technologies are employed,” said Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.
“Thanks to this important new discovery, our knowledge of the daily life of ancient Pompeians has been enriched, particularly of that element of society about which little is known even today. Pompeii is a model of study that is unique in the world.”
READ ALSO: Why is Italy called Italy?
The excavation is part of a programme launched in 2017 aimed at fighting illegal activity in the area, including tunnel digging to reach artefacts that can be sold on illicit markets.
The Villa of Civita Giuliana had been the target of systematic looting for years. There was evidence some of the “archaeological heritage” in this so-called Slave Room had also been lost to looters, the park said.
Damage by grave robbers in the villa had been estimated so far at almost two million euros ($2.3 million), it added.
AFP/The Local
news@thelocal.it
@thelocalitaly
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