Hemorrhagic fever virus, human blood, and tissues in Iron Age mortuary vessels
Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 78(February), 29-39.
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.