Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The brutal world of antiquity

NASTY, BRUTISH, AND SHORT: Even governors in Pharaonic Egypt died in their 20s.
afrol News, 9 March - Researchers have analysed more than 200 mummies from ancient Egypt, finding that even high dignitaries were poorly nourished and had infectious diseases. The typical governor in Pharaonic Egypt died before he was 30 years old.

Anthropologists and archaeologists from the Spanish universities of Granada and JaƩn have analysed more than 200 mummies and skeletons from the Necropolis Qubbet el-Hawa in the Egyptian region of Aswan. They were surprised to see how early in life these men in leading positions had died and what they had died of.

"The ancient Egyptians did not live in such good conditions and were not surrounded by such opulence as was thought up to now," the Spanish researchers write. Rather, they "suffered from hunger and malnutrition, a whole range of infectious diseases and an extremely high infant mortality rate," the analyses had shown.

And, to add insult to injury, they also had heart disease: Mummies With Heart Disease Show That Clogged Arteries Aren't Just Modern Ailment.
People have long debated whether clogged arteries and heart disease resulted from the fat and sugar-laden modern diet or an inevitable vagary of aging. There's no doubt that westernized diets have worsened diabetes, obesity and chronic disease, but whether a more primitive diet could completely eliminate those scourges was debatable.

I suspect the ancient lifestyle created plenty of opportunities for arterial inflammation through chronic infections and the like, so I wouldn't be too complacent about our modern diet. (But I am not a doctor and that is not medical advice.)

If you are sometimes tempted to feel nostalgic about life in antiquity, these article will help cure that. Relate thoughts here and here.