Biostratigraphic Evidence Relating to the Age-Old Question of Hannibal's Invasion of Italy, I: History and Geological Reconstruction

W. C. Mahaney*, C. C R Allen, P. Pentlavalli, A. Kulakova, J. M. Young, R. W. Dirszowsky, A. West, B. Kelleher, S. Jordan, C. Pulleyblank, S. O'Reilly, B. T. Murphy, K. Lasberg, P. Somelar, M. Garneau, S. A. Finkelstein, M. K. Sobol, V. Kalm, P. J M Costa, R. G V HancockK. M. Hart, P. Tricart, R. W. Barendregt, T. E. Bunch, M. W. Milner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
347 Downloads (Pure)


Controversy over the alpine route that Hannibal of Carthage followed from the Rhône Basin into Italia has raged amongst classicists and ancient historians for over two millennia. The motivation for identifying the route taken by the Punic Army through the Alps lies in its potential for identifying sites of historical archaeological significance and for the resolution of one of history's most enduring quandaries. Here, we present stratigraphic, geochemical and microbiological evidence recovered from an alluvial floodplain mire located below the Col de la Traversette (~3000 m asl-above sea level) on the French/Italian border that potentially identifies the invasion route as the one originally proposed by Sir Gavin de Beer (de Beer 1974). The dated layer is termed the MAD bed (mass animal deposition) based on disrupted bedding, greatly increased organic carbon and key/specialized biological components/compounds, the latter reported in Part II of this paper. We propose that the highly abnormal churned up (bioturbated) bed was contaminated by the passage of Hannibal's animals, possibly thousands, feeding and watering at the site, during the early stage of Hannibal's invasion of Italia (218 BC).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-178
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Early online date08 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Environmental Parameters
  • Hannibalic War
  • Invasion Route Question, Hannibal Route Enigma Unmasked
  • Second Punic War

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History


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