Andean mummies afflicted with arsenic
Andean mummies reveal arsenic poisoning afflicted people in northern Chile for thousands of years, a hair analysis shows.
In the current Journal of Archaeological Science, a team led by Bernardo Arriaza of Chile's Universidad de Tarapaca analyzed hair from 45 Andean mummies taken from ten sites some 7,000 to 600 years old. The mummies dried in Chile's Atacama desert region, one of the most parched regions on Earth. They were deliberately mummified with sticks, reeds and clay, given wigs and distinctive caps.
In the research, the team cleaned hair samples with de-ionized water, and then blasted them with lasers for chemical analysis. Some modern-day waters in the region have arsenic levels 100 times higher than the 10 microgram-per-liter limits recommended by the World Health Organization.
About 31% of the mummies had arsenic levels above 2.6 micrograms per liter, the study finds, and 89% had arsenic levels at least a tenth of that concentration, enough to trigger health effects. "Our data show that ancient people of northern Chile accumulated significant levels of arsenic in their bodies," concludes the study.
Chronic arsenic poisoning causes health problems ranging from premature birth, stillbirths, infant mortality, skin disorders, stunted growth, neurological disorders and cancer, the study notes, as well as cleft palate and spina bifida.
comments powered by Disqus
- New Hampshire professors at odds with library over discarded books
- Troubled history fuels Japan-China tension
- Independent Scotland's last gasp forgotten in Panama jungle
- LBJ was the ‘most-threatened president in American history’
- New exhibit at the World War I Museum ... Over by Christmas: August-December 1914
- Ken Burns on Colbert to promote his new documentary, "The Address"
- UC Santa Barbara History Department featuring a series on the Great Society at 50
- Historians are trying to recover censored texts from World War I poets
- Diane Ravitch blasts the NYT for failing to understand the controversy over Common Core
- Mormon history professors debate atheists in bid to foster greater understanding