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Chungará (Arica)

On-line version ISSN 0717-7356

Abstract

ARRIAZA, Bernardo et al. HEAD COMBS FOR DELOUSING IN ANCIENT ARICAN POPULATIONS: SCRATCHING FOR THE EVIDENCE. Chungará (Arica) [online]. 2014, vol.46, n.4, pp.693-706. ISSN 0717-7356.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0717-73562014000400011.

We explore the hypothesis that small combs coming from AZ71, PLM4, PLM6, and CAM8 archaeological sites in Northern Chile were produced specifically to remove head lice and their nits/eggs. Andean combs (N=41) housed at the Museo Arqueológico de la Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, dating from 240 to 800 BP were studied microscopically for signs of usage. The presence of fibers, head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis), their eggs and nits (which are the empty eggs without the embryo) were systematically noted as the combs were observed. A total of 23/41 archaeological combs (56%) were positive for P. humanus capitis evidenced by lice, eggs, and/or nits. On those combs positive for P. humanus capitis 17.4% (4/23) presented human hair embedded in the tines. No other inclusions such as textile-related fibers were present to associate the combs with use in textile production (0/41). These small combs were well-planned artifacts requiring specialized preparation of raw materials, as well as skillful artisans to manufacture and produce these functional objects. Comb development was a cultural response to an endemic and increasingly annoyingly itchy health problem.

Keywords : Pediculosis; Pediculus humanus capitis; lice, Pre-Columbian mummies; Atacama Desert; Chile.

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