Archaeologists find oldest evidence of disease in 4,200 year old Egyptian skeleton
A team from a Spanish university has discovered what Egyptian authorities are calling the world’s oldest evidence of breast cancer in the 4,200-year-old skeleton of an adult woman.
‘The study of her remains shows the typical destructive damage provoked by the extension of a breast cancer as a metastasis,’ he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Despite being one of the world’s leading causes of death today, cancer is virtually absent in archaeological records compared to other diseases – which has given rise to the idea that cancers are mainly attributable to modern lifestyles and to people living for longer.
‘The team from University of Jaen has confirmed that the woman lived at the end of the 6th Dynasty (2200 BCE) and was part of the élite of the southernmost town of Egypt, Elephantine,’ the statement said.
‘The virulence of the disease impeded her to carry out any kind of labor, but she was treated and taken care during a long period until her death. ‘
The University of Jaen began the archaeological excavations in Qubbet el-Hawa in 2008 and their major goal is to reconstruct the life and funerary rituals of the governors of Elephantine and their families who lived between 2250 and 1750 BCE.
But the finding, along with evidence reported last year by British researchers of metastatic cancer in a 3,000-year-old skeleton found in a tomb in modern Sudan, suggests cancer was around in the Nile Valley in ancient times.
Her remains were discovered in the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa, west of the southern city of Aswan, the ministry said.
Last year a unique MRI scan on a 2,500 year old mummified Siberian ‘princess’ has revealed she died after suffering from acute breast cancer.
Preserved in ice in an elaborate grave in the Altai Mountains, the ancient woman – famous for her remarkable tattoos – took cannabis to dull the ravages of her illnesses, experts have also discovered.
Dug from her permafrost burial chamber on the high Ukok Plateau in 1993, analysis of her remains earlier highlighted sophisticated tattoos of ‘great artistry’ of fantastical creatures, while in her tomb was also found clothing and headdresses, a make-up bag, and a stash of cannabis, enabling experts to build a detailed picture of her life and looks.
Separately from the MRI, academics also conclude she was a virgin who lived a deliberately ‘celibate’ life.
Written by REUTERS and Mark Prigg for The Daily Mail, March 24, 2015.
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