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Ancient Egypt's cocaine and nicotine mummies

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    Posted: 25 Jan 2016 at 00:21
Hello all,

My first post in quite some time, it's nice to see again those of you I knew from earlier - and to meet some of you new folk.

My topic here concerns the forensic investigation of ancient Egyptian mummies by Svetlana Bablanova. The German scientist performed multiple tests using thorough methodologies and found cocaine and nicotine present in multiple mummies. Other forensic Egyptologists, sceptical of Bablanova, also performed these tests. To everyone's surprise, they also discovered traces of these compounds. In total, about 1/3 of Egyptian mummies tested were found to be positive for these compounds. Here are some sources (not very good ones) to fill you in further.


The compounds ought not to have been found - the plants which produce them are only native to the New World. At that time, contact between New and Old Worlds was considered unevidenced.

What do you think? My theory is that the combination of certain mummification agents, in combination with certain food and flower decorations and human flesh has reacted over thousands of years in the very particular confines of tomb conditions to possibly react to form the compounds.

Failing that, we ought to assume some pre-Columbian contact. Or, more likely, the presence in Ancient Egypt's world of narcotic plants which produced these compounds but which are now extinct.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Jan 2016 at 06:06
Contamination in the modern age seems a very likely explanation. From the Conclusion section of "Ramses II and the Tobacco Beetle" | Antiquity:

Quote The explanations of the presence of tobacco and cocaine in Egyptian mummies have not only ignored their post-excavation histories, but also the biogeographic data concerning these plants. The evidence for the use of nicotine-derived insecticides at least since the late 18th century provides a much more probable explanation. There remain problems with the interpretation of the biochemical data, but the balance of evidence would indicate that neither plant was known to the ancient Egyptians.

Quote The levels of cocaine recorded for South American mummies in these studies compare favourably with reported levels in modern coca chewers in the range of 1.0-28.9 ng/mg and 1.4 and 50.6 ng/mg. By comparison, the levels in the Egyptian mummies are very low -- close to the 0.1 ng/mg limit of detection reported by many investigators at the time of the study and consistently lower than the 0.3 ng/mg suggested by Cartmell et al. as a cut-off point 'to differentiate a "negative" and a "positive" result consistent with previous hair studies.'

Edited by L'Emmerdeur - 26 Jan 2016 at 06:31
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