(CNN)Remarkable exactly what you can find out from horse manure.
In 218 B.C., the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca led an army of more than 30,000 men, 15,000 horses and mules and– famously– about 40 elephants northeast through Europe and crossed the Alps to assault the Roman Republic from the north.
It’s thought about among the great accomplishments in military history.
However exactly what was Hannibal’s precise route? For centuries, historians have actually discussed the concern.
Now, Chris Allen, a microbiologist at Queen’s University Belfast, thinks a research study group has actually fixed the puzzle– thanks to “contemporary science and a little ancient horse poo,” he composes in a blog post.
Allen and a team led by Costs Mahaney of Toronto’s York University think that Hannibal and his soldiers crossed the Alps at Col de Traversette, on the border of France and Italy southeast of Grenoble.
The surrounding surface is unbelievably rugged; even 22 centuries later, Google Maps suggests that a tourist from France cross into Italy and double back to arrive at the pass, though some single-lane roadways in France will get you close.
Allen and the team “unveiled a mass animal deposition of fecal products– probably from horses– at a website near the Col de Traversette,” Allen composes. Thanks to carbon isotope analysis, the group dated the dung to about 200 B.C. Descriptions of the location in historical writings also fit.
The UK’s Guardian notes that discussion about the path dates to the ancient historians Livy and Polybius. The Col de Traversette was one of lots of courses thought about, however its narrowness and height– it’s close to 10,000 feet above water level– made it daunting.
Allen thinks that Hannibal might have taken the dangerous path since of his fear not of the Romans but of tribes that lived in the region.
He cautions that the group’s research study is not complete. Gene analysis has to be broadened, he composes, and he’s hoping researchers find parasite eggs preserved in the mire.
“With more genetic information we can be more accurate about the source and possibly even the geographical origin of some of these ancient beasts by comparison with other microbiology research study studies,” he composes.
Hannibal’s journeys were not without casualties. Accounts vary, however it’s generally believed that he lost more than 10,000 males and possibly numerous more. Furthermore, all however one of his elephants died.
Nevertheless, his success led to his biggest victory, at Cannae in 216 B.C. The 2nd Punic War between Rome and Carthage raged on till 202 B.C., when Hannibal was beat at the Battle of Zama.
The findings of the worldwide team of researchers are released in the journal Archaeometry.