In his painting Snow-storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps J.M.W. Turner envelops Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in romantic atmosphere.
More realistically, a popular painting of the journey shows how Hannibal led about 30,000 troops, 15,000 horses and 37 elephants across the Alps to challenge Roman power on home soil.
In a series of battles, the Carthaginians brought the Roman military to its knees. But Hannibal was ultimately defeated at the battle of Zama in 202 BC.
Now, scientists may be closer to revealing the route taken by Hannibal as he crossed the Alps to attack ancient Rome
They have found a churned up layer of soil at an Alpine pass near the French-Italian border that dates to the time of Hannibal’s invasion.
In the journal Archaeometry they say the disturbed sediment was rich in microbes that are common in horse manure.
Dr Chris Allen, from Queen’s University Belfast, said the layer had been produced by “the constant movement of thousands of animals and humans”.
“Over 70% of the microbes in horse manure are from a group known as the Clostridia, that are very stable in soil – surviving for thousands of years,” he said.
“We found scientifically significant evidence of these same bugs in a genetic microbial signature precisely dating to the time of the Punic invasion.”
This crossing point was first proposed over a half century ago by the British biologist Sir Gavin de Beer, but it has not been widely accepted by the academic community.