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vol.40 issue1CRANIAL DEFORMATION AS THE CAUSE OF DEATH FOR A CHILD FROM THE CHILLON RIVER VALLEY, PERUDAILY PRACTICES AND IMAGINARIES IN LITORAL SOCIETIES: THE SECTOR OF CUCAO, ISLA GRANDE OF CHILOÉ author indexsubject indexarticles search
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Chungará (Arica)

On-line version ISSN 0717-7356

Abstract

ARRIAZA, Bernardo T et al. THE BIOARCHAEOLOGICAL VALUE OF HUMAN MUMMIES WITHOUT PROVENIENCE. Chungará (Arica) [online]. 2008, vol.40, n.1, pp.55-65. ISSN 0717-7356.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0717-73562008000100006.

Thirteen spontaneously (naturally) mummified human bodies with little or no available provenience data were examined by inspection, dissection and tissue chemical analysis. The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that useful anthropological/archaeological and biomedical information could be derived from bodies even when no reliable provenience for recovered mummies is known. Results of studies on these 13 bodies enabled recognition of their cultural identity, and indicated probable extensive exposure to cold marine water (diving?) in the form of external auditory exostoses. Analysis also revealed coca leaf-chewing (or ingesting) practices that probably caused premature antemortem tooth loss. Biological studies identified the presence of Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) in six of the bodies, two of which probably died of this infection during the acute stage. Tuberculous osteomyelitis was established in two mummies with one revealing multiple septicemic lesions of the miliar type. Healed pneumonia and osteopenia were present in several others, one with multiple compressed vertebral fractures. We conclude that even mummies without provenience data harbor much recoverable information that can be integrated into anthropological and biomedical databases.

Keywords : Mummies without cultural context; bioarchaeology; Chagas disease; pneumonia; tuberculosis.

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