Ancient barley virus carried by Crusaders

A team of British scientists from the University of Warwick has been able to sequence the genome of ancient RNA thanks to the study of ancient barley from Egypt. The fossilized grain contained the Barley Stripe Mosaic Virus, believed to be a modern disease, which may have been transported to Egypt by Crusaders in the Seventh Crusade.

The barley that was found at Qasr Ibrim, near the Nile River, has two strands, not the usual six, linking it to the type grown in the Near East. RNA found in the kernels carried the blueprint for the Barley Stripe Mosaic Virus, a disease that has devasted modern crops.