Learning outcomes of the course unit
The main purpose of the course is to get familiar the student with the main changes undergone by biological macromolecules in a biological remain of archaeologic interest, as a consequence of aging processes in order to enable him to link such modifications with the archaeological background of the remain. In particular, the student will be able
• To distinguish the different tissues in a archaeologic remain
• To hypothesize the main deterioration mechanisms
• To choose the most suitable experimental technique for the analysis
• To identify the changes undergone by the different biological macromolecules
• To source the literature suitable to study the problem to be analyzed
• To link the obtained results with those published in literature.
• To describe, with the appropriate terminology, the remain and the modifications due to the aging.
Basis of cellular biology
Course contents summary
Biomolecular Archaeology as integrative discipline of both Bioarchaeology and Anthropology. The complexity of living systems. Biological Macromolecules: Structure and function of Proteins, Nucleic Acids, Lipids, Carbohydrates in living organisms. Water, the biological solvent. Basic concepts of taphonomy. Deterioration and decomposition processes of biological macromolecules in dead organisms. Main chemical reactions involving biological tissues of dead organisms: DNA fragmentation, proteolysis, deamination, decarboxylation, hydrolysis, racemization of aminoacids, non-enzymatic glycation. Experimental techniques of Biomolecular Archaeology: FTIR spectroscopy and PCR (Polymerase Chain reaction). Biological tissues exposed to archaeologic deterioration: skin and bone. Structure and properties of collagen and keratin in modern and ancient tissues. Skin: mummification and embalming procedures. Archaeologic bone: diagenesis processes. FTIR analysis of both the tissues in different archaeologic samples and environments
T. Brown and K. Brown, Biomolecular Archaeology. An introduction. 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
J. M. Berg, J. L. Tymoczko,L. Stryer, Biochimica, 2012, Zanichelli
The slides used for the lessons and some review papers will be provided.
Oral lessons with slide support
Due to the large variability of study cases, a wide selection of scientific papers will be proposed to the students to illustrate different arguments in addition to those shown during the lessons.
Some study cases will be proposed to the students in heuristic way, i.e. by explaining the case and its archaeologic context and by stimulating the students to suggest hypotheses and research analysis proposals. At the end of the simulation process the results of the research will be shown and the case will be solved.
Slides of the lessons and a wide selection of literature papers will be available on Elly platform.
Assessment methods and criteria
The exam will consist in two parts: a written one and an oral one. The written exam will be a series of 10 open questions on the arguments treated during the lessons. The oral exam will be a short power point presentation on the subject of a paper chosen among the texts proposed by the teacher. During the ppt presentation some topics will be discussed.