(Courtesy of: AM Begerock, R Loynes, OK Peschel, J Verano, R Bianucci, I Martinez Armijo, M González, AG Nerlich)
Although we tend to think that the ancient world was rife with violence, is this idea really accurate?
New study says yes to millennial mummies. It stated that two of the three South American specimens included in the investigation showed signs of being brutally killed.
Skeletons, mummies and signs of struggle
Was violence widespread in the ancient world? This is a question that some scientists have tried to answer by analyzing ancient remains. And yet, though skulls and skeletons have already revealed that more than 20 percent of the remains of South American men show signs of violent struggle, mummies remain a relatively untapped source for this kind of information.
For one of the first times, a team of researchers recently applied non-invasive imaging techniques to study three separate, millennia-old mummies from South America.
“We show lethal trauma in two out of three South American mummies we examined,” said Andreas Nerlich, study author and a pathologist at Munich’s Bogenhausen Clinic in Germany, according to a press release. “The types of trauma we found would not have been found if these human remains were just skeletons.”
Scientists know there is more than one way to make a mummy. Although the most famous method involves deliberate, methodical preservation, mummies can also take shape if the fleshy tissues of the dead body naturally dry out before they decompose. This natural method is most commonly found in arid areas, such as the southern areas of South America.
All three mummies involved in this investigation likely formed by this natural method. The first, a 20- to 25-year-old man, came from the Arica region of Chile and died about 1025 to 875 years ago. The other two, a male and a female, came from the Arequipa region of Peru, with the male dying 1,120 years ago and the female dying earlier, only 800 years ago.
After carefully photographing these three mummified individuals, the researchers reconstructed their deaths to reveal that both men died as a result of vicious and deliberate violence. The first fell after being lodged in the skull and stabbed in the back, while the second appeared to have been deliberately wounded near the neck, succumbing almost instantly. Only the female died of natural causes.
The researchers say their results may mean the ancient world of South America was much more violent than previously thought.
“Importantly, the study of human mummified material can reveal a much higher rate of trauma, especially intentional trauma, than the study of skeletons,” Nerlich concluded in a press release. “There are dozens of South American mummies that could benefit from an investigation like the one done here.”