Was the Cinta Senese Pig Already a Luxury Food in the Late Middle Ages? Ancient DNA and Archaeozoological Evidence From Central Italy

Genes (Basel). 2020 Jan 11;11(1):85. doi: 10.3390/genes11010085.


The Cinta senese is a pig breed, highly esteemed for its meat and derived products, characterized by a black coat with a typical white "belt" and documented by scant iconography, since the 13th-14th century in Italy. A piece of pottery showing a Cinta pig was found in the Graffignano castle (Northern Latium, Italy) dated 15th-16th centuries, spurring us to investigate the diet of the inhabitants. Ancient DNA analysis was carried out on 21 pig specimens on three nuclear SNPs: (1) g.43597545C>T, on the KIT gene, informative for the identification of the Cinta senese breed; (2) rs81460129, on an intergenic region in chr. 16, which discriminates between domestic pigs and wild boars, and; (3) a SNP on the ZFY/ZFX homologous genes, to determine the sex of the individuals. Our results indicate that the Cinta senese was present in Northern Latium in Late Medieval time, although it was not the only breed, and that pigs, including Cinta, interbred with wild boars, suggesting free-range breeding for all types of pigs. Moreover, the unexpected high proportion of young females may be considered as evidence for the wealth of the family inhabiting the castle.

Keywords: KIT; Sus scrofa; introgression; sexing markers; wild boar.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't