Scientists uncover crimes from a millennium ago in extreme cold case mummies

   

How frequent was violence in prehistoric human societies? One way to measure this is to look for trauma in prehistoric human remains.

For example, a recent review of pre-Columbian remains found evidence of trauma from violence in 21% of males. So far, most studies of this kind focused on skulls and other parts of the skeleton, but a potentially richer source of information are mummies, with their preserved soft tissues.

Now in a new study in Frontiers in Medicine, researchers use 3D computed tomography (3D CT) to examine three mummies from pre-Columbian South America, conserved since the late 19th century in European museums.

“Here we show lethal trauma in two out of three South American mummies that we investigated with 3D CT. The types of trauma we found would not have been detectable if these human remains had been mere skeletons,” said Dr Andreas G Nerlich, a professor at the Department of Pathology of Munich Clinic Bogenhausen in Germany, the study’s corresponding author.

Nerlich and colleagues studied a male mummy at the ‘Museum Anatomicum’ of the Philipps University Marburg, Germany, as well as a female and a male mummy at the Art and History Museum of Delémont, Switzerland. Mummies can form naturally when dry environments, for example in deserts, soak up fluids from a decomposing body faster than the decay can proceed – conditions common in the southern zones of South America.

Died between 740 and 1120 years ago

The Marburg mummy belonged to the Arica culture in today’s northern Chile, and judging from the grave goods found with him, must have lived in a fishing community. Buried squatting down, he had well-preserved but misaligned teeth, with some abrasions as is typical for pre-Columbian people who used maize as a staple food. His lungs showed scars from past severe tuberculosis. From the features of the bones, the authors estimated that he was a young man between 20 and 25 years old, approximately 1.72 meters tall. He died between 996 and 1147 CE, as the radiocarbon results showed.

The Delémont mummies probably came from the region of Arequipa in today’s southwestern Peru, based on the ceramics among the grave goods. Both were buried lying face up, which is unusual for mummies from the highlands of South America. Radiocarbon data showed that the man died between 902 and 994 CE, and the woman between 1224 and 1282 CE. They wore textiles woven from cotton and hairs of llamas or alpacas as well as vizcachas, rodents related to chinchillas. The state of the aorta and large arteries showed that the man suffered from calcifying arteriosclerosis in life.

Two murder victims

The results show that both male mummies had died on the spot from extreme intentional violence. The authors reconstructed that the Marburg mummy had died because either “one assaulter hit the victim with full force on the head and [a] second assaulter stab[bed] the victim (who still was standing or kneeing) in the back. Alternatively, the same or another assaulter standing on the right side of the victim struck the head and then turned to the back of the victim and stabbed him.”

Similarly, the male mummy from Delémont showed “massive trauma against the cervical spine which represent most likely the cause of death. The significant dislocation of the two cervical vertebral bodies itself is lethal and may have led to immediate death.”

Only the female mummy had died of natural causes. She also showed extensive damage to the skeleton, but this occurred after death, probably during burial and not on purpose.

Nerlich said: “The availability of modern CT-scans with the opportunity for 3D reconstructions offers unique insight into bodies that would otherwise not have been detected. Previous studies would have either destroyed the mummy, while X-rays or older CT-scans without three-dimensional reconstruction functions could not have detected the diagnostic key features we found here.”

“Importantly, the study of human mummified material can reveal a much higher rate of trauma, especially intentional trauma, than the study of skeletons. There are dozens of South American mummies which might profit from a similar investigation as done here we did here.”

Related Posts

Amazing Find: 4,800-year-old mother and child fossils discovered in Taiwan

It іs а fіttіng dіscovery аs Mother’ѕ Dаy аpproаches. Arсhaeologists hаve unсovered the аncient remаins of а young mother аnd аn іnfant сhild loсked іn а 4,800-yeаr-old…

Presenting Pushanee, the Silver Pharaoh, whose riches rivals the treasures of Tutankhamun.

In t𝚑𝚎 𝚊nn𝚊ls 𝚘𝚏 𝚊nci𝚎nt E𝚐𝚢𝚙t, 𝚊mi𝚍st t𝚑𝚎 𝚎c𝚑𝚘𝚎s 𝚘𝚏 𝚙𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚘𝚑s’ 𝚛𝚎i𝚐ns 𝚊n𝚍 t𝚑𝚎 w𝚑is𝚙𝚎𝚛s 𝚘𝚏 𝚐𝚘𝚍s, t𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 liv𝚎𝚍 𝚊 𝚛𝚞l𝚎𝚛 w𝚑𝚘s𝚎 l𝚎𝚐𝚊c𝚢 s𝚑𝚘n𝚎 𝚊s 𝚋𝚛i𝚐𝚑tl𝚢 𝚊s…

Take in awe as you peruse the more than 300 life-size sculptures in the Underwater Museum off the coast of Lanzarote.

E𝚞𝚛𝚘𝚙𝚎’s 𝚏i𝚛st 𝚞n𝚍𝚎𝚛w𝚊t𝚎𝚛 sc𝚞l𝚙t𝚞𝚛𝚎 m𝚞s𝚎𝚞m 𝚏𝚎𝚊t𝚞𝚛in𝚐 𝚘v𝚎𝚛 300 li𝚏𝚎-siz𝚎𝚍 𝚏i𝚐𝚞𝚛𝚎s h𝚊s 𝚋𝚎𝚎n in𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚞𝚛𝚊t𝚎𝚍. Th𝚎 L𝚊nz𝚊𝚛𝚘t𝚎 𝚊tt𝚛𝚊cti𝚘n, M𝚞s𝚎𝚘 Atl𝚊ntic𝚘, t𝚘𝚘k 𝚊lm𝚘st th𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚎𝚊𝚛s t𝚘 c𝚘m𝚙l𝚎t𝚎 𝚊n𝚍 h𝚊s 12 s𝚙𝚛𝚊wlin𝚐…

Uncovered Egyptian mummies from coffins inspire dread of the “Curse of the Pharaohs”

THE COFFINS of high-status ancient Egyptian Sennedjem and one of his wives have been cracked open at a museum in Egypt. The sarcophagi were unpacked in the…

The Ptolemaic Dynasty was the final Egyptian dynasty.

Pt𝚘l𝚎m𝚊ic E𝚐𝚢𝚙t is 𝚍istinctiv𝚎 in 𝚋𝚎in𝚐 𝚋𝚘th th𝚎 l𝚊st in𝚍𝚎𝚙𝚎n𝚍𝚎nt E𝚐𝚢𝚙ti𝚊n 𝚍𝚢n𝚊st𝚢 𝚊n𝚍 th𝚎 l𝚊st H𝚎ll𝚎nistic kin𝚐𝚍𝚘m t𝚘 𝚏𝚊ll t𝚘 R𝚘m𝚎. Th𝚎 Pt𝚘l𝚎mi𝚎s w𝚎𝚛𝚎 n𝚘t n𝚊tiv𝚎 E𝚐𝚢𝚙ti𝚊ns,…

Tutankhamun’s Twin Tragedy: The Death of a Dynasty

T𝚘ss𝚎𝚍 𝚊w𝚊𝚢 c𝚊ll𝚘𝚞sl𝚢 in 𝚊 𝚍𝚊𝚛k c𝚘𝚛n𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 th𝚎 l𝚊vish T𝚛𝚎𝚊s𝚞𝚛𝚢 in th𝚎 s𝚞𝚋t𝚎𝚛𝚛𝚊n𝚎𝚊n t𝚘m𝚋 𝚘𝚏 T𝚞t𝚊nkh𝚊m𝚞n w𝚊s 𝚙𝚘ssi𝚋l𝚢 th𝚎 m𝚘st 𝚙𝚘i𝚐n𝚊nt 𝚛𝚎mn𝚊nt 𝚘𝚏 th𝚎 𝚋𝚘𝚢 kin𝚐’s…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *