he ancient Egyptians could soon be getting their genomes sequenced as a matter of routine. That’s the view, at least, of the first researchers to use next-generation techniques to analyse DNA from Egyptian mummies.
In a preliminary study that the authors describe as “a first step”, they detected hints of one of the mummies’ ancestral origins, as well as pathogens and a range of plant materials presumably used in the embalming process. The researchers, led by Carsten Pusch, a geneticist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, published their findings last week in the Journal of Applied Genetics.
Previous studies of DNA from Egyptian mummies have used a technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify specific segments of DNA. But these studies have been controversial. Read more.
Whether laid to rest in a simple grave or a grand tomb, the human body rarely survives the sweep of time. But in a few places where people deliberately mummified their dead, or the environmental conditions were right—very dry or wet—flesh and bone are preserved.
Today these remains, probed by modern CT scans, MRIs, and DNA tests, are offering intriguing insights into how people lived and died long ago.
A 2011 study of 52 mummies in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo showed that almost half had clogged arteries, the kind of condition that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
What was to blame? Too much beer and bread? Not enough exercise? Chronic inflammation? Or perhaps some genetic predisposition of the interbred royals? Experts could only wonder. Read more.
The diseased arteries of ancient mummies are challenging modern assumptions about the causes of cardiovascular disease.
Whole-body CT scans of 137 mummies from different countries, cultures and lifestyles spanning 4000 years of history has found evidence of hardened arteries in at least one-third of the mummies.
The international study, published today in the Lancet, calls into question the assumption that cardiovascular disease is a uniquely modern disease resulting from poor diet and lifestyle choices. Read more.
Even the best-off ancient Egyptians suffered from malnutrition and preventable disease, a new analysis of mummies and skeletons finds.
The bodies come from the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis, which is near the modern city of Aswan in southern Egypt. Constructed in the 12th dynasty (between 1939 B.C. and 1760 B.C.) and re-used in later periods, the necropolis contains remains of people from across the social spectrum.
An analysis of more than 200 of these bodies, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, finds that wealth did not necessarily buy health in ancient Egypt. Read more.
Arrayed in crypts and churches, with leering skulls and parchment skin, the desiccated dead of Sicily have long kept mute vigil.
But now, centuries later, these creepy cadavers have plenty to say.
Five years into the Sicily Mummy Project, six macabre collections are offering scientists a fresh look at life and death on the Mediterranean island from the late 16th century to the mid-20th.
Led by anthropologist Dario Piombino-Mascali of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity in Palermo, the ongoing investigation is revealing how religious men and their wealthy supporters ate, interacted, dealt with disease, and disposed of their dead. Read more.
Preserved by one of Earth’s driest climates, a long-buried corpse in Chile’s Atacama Desert retains centuries-old skin, hair, and clothing (picture). Naturally dehydrated corpses like this probably inspired the region’s ancient Chinchorro people to actively mummify their dead, a new study says.
Living in fishing villages along the coasts of Chile and Peru, the Chinchorro had begun mummifying skeletons by 5050 B.C., thousands of years before the Egyptians. Archaeologists have long wondered how the practice—and a related cult of death—arose, with some speculating it had been imported from the notably wetter Amazon Basin.
Laid to rest on woven reeds, a bewigged prehistoric boy—or a reasonable facsimile—bears evidence to the Chinchorro’s complex mummification rituals. Rather than preserving flesh, the desert people used a paste of manganese-infused ash to sculpt “bodies” atop defleshed skeletons, whose internal organs had been replaced with earth.
A “black” mummy seems to smile beneath a 5,000-year-old coating of dark ash paste and a human-hair wig.
Emerging around 5,000 B.C., the black style of mummification lasted more than two millennia among the Chinchorro.
A border of whale bones mark the grave of two adult and two infant Chinchorro mummies, possibly part of the same family. The Chinchorro may have mummified their dead as a way of coping with the persistence of their ancestors’ bodies in the arid Atacama. More.
Two decorated covers of coffins that once contained mummies have been seized by Israeli authorities, authenticated and dated to thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt.
Inspectors of the Unit for Prevention of Antiquities Robbery found the artifacts while checking shops in a marketplace in the Old City of Jerusalem. The inspectors confiscated the items under suspicion of being stolen property.
The ancient covers are made of wood and adorned with “breathtaking decorations and paintings of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics,” says the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Researchers examined the covers with carbon dating — which looks at a radioactive form of carbon in a sample to determine its age — and other tools, finding the artifacts are authentic. They dated one of the covers to the period between the 10th and eighth centuries B.C., considered the Iron Age, and the other to between the 16th and 14th centuries B.C. (Late Bronze Age).
ALBANY — An ambulance that would normally be speeding along Washington Avenue and into Washington Park was carefully maneuvering through downtown Albany at about 15 mph Saturday morning to avoid any potholes or bumps.
The reason? Its passenger was a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy.
Two mummified Egyptians and an alligator mummy were transported to Albany Medical Center’s South Campus to undergo X-ray and CT scans in an effort to learn more about the Albany Institute of History and Art’s Egyptian collections and its mummies.
“We went slow to avoid bumps,” said Clarissa Myers, who drove a Five Quad Volunteer Ambulance through downtown Albany. She said it was scary, mainly because she did not want to damage the antiquity. Read more.