Upon analyzing the DNA of ancient Egyptian mummies, researchers believe they have found the earliest evidence of malaria. A study revealed in November of 2008 showed that the ancient DNA of two Egyptian mummies who passed away more than 3,500 years ago might have suffered what is seen as the first case of malaria in the past. In this article, you will also learn of a connection between mind-altering drug use and inhabitants of the ancient Andes.
Earliest Detection of Malaria Found in Egypt
After studying more than 90 bone tissue samples from ancient Egyptian mummies and skeletons dating from 3500 to 500 B.C, pathologists and researchers from the Academic Teaching Hospital Munchen-Bogenhausen in Munich, Germany have made leeway.
With the help of specialized techniques that tap into advancements in molecular biology, researchers found answers hidden within DNA amplification and gene sequencing that showed the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum plaguing tissue extracted from two mummies. Researchers can now confirm that malaria attacked some of the inhabitants that lived during ancient Egyptian times. While before only speculation of such a fact was made by the likes of 5th century BC. Greek historian, Herodotus , now experts can look beyond the clues they once pined over in ancient Egyptian papyri.
The mummies once lived in Thebes, which served as the capital of Egypt around 1500 B.C. A large necropolis has been left behind, where the remains of upper class ancient Egyptians have been found. The mummies that were infected are adults, which also showed signs of chronic anemia. Sadly, no additional details are readily available because there is no way of telling the names of the buried. What researchers have concluded is that they belonged to a high social class. The location of their tombs suggests this.
Archeological Evidence Shows Early Drug Addiction
Who would have thought that you could uncover ancient drug addiction by studying the hair taken from an Andean mummy? In November of 2008, headlines revealed the efforts of archeologists who have stumbled upon the first direct proof that past ancestors living in pre-Hispanic Andean communities consumed hallucinogens. All of this proven by taking a closer look at hair taken from a mummy.
There has also been indirect evidence that pointed to psychoactive drug use in South American ancient communities, whether people were experimenting with drug-related equipment or used hallucinogenic herbs in conjunction with snuffing kits that archeologists have come across during excavations. Until now, there weren’t many direct connections to the ancient people of the Andes until now. There was no way of concretely proving that inhabitants did indeed use mind-altering drugs.
After analyzing 32 mummies hailing from the Azapa Valley in northern Chile, chemical archaeologist Juan Pablo Ogalde and colleagues from the University of Tarapaca (in Arica, Chile) were able to pinpoint a link. The bodies used were mummified due to natural processes and found in the Acatama desert. They came from a bloodline of the Tiwanaku , ancestors of the Incas. During 1200 BC, the Tiwanaku was one of the lesser-known cultures of the region, but grew to become one of the longest-running empires in history. They lasted for nearly three millennia. During the peak of their power (estimated between 700 and 1100 AD), the culture dominated the Andes at this time. They were responsible for controlling large parts of Bolivia and Peru, as well as some sections of Argentina and Chile.
What helped researchers make a connection with the ancient people and drug use were some of the extensive burials of the region, where decorated snuffing trays and panpipes have been uncovered. Just by taking a quick look at the goods that emerged out of the graves, it was clear that Tiwanaku people used hallucinogenic drugs. With the deeper analysis that came from the chemical composition of hairs taken from an adult male and a one-year-old baby (dating back to between 800 and 1200 AD), researchers found the presence of the hallucinogenic called ‘alkaloid harmine.’ Interestingly, the adult male showed signs of sniffing lesions located close to the nose. An elaborate snuffing kit was also placed in his grave.