Virchows Archiv

, Volume 427, Issue 4, pp 423–429 | Cite as

Extensive pulmonary haemorrhage in an Egyptian mummy

  • A. G. Nerlich
  • I. Wiest
  • U. Löhrs
  • F. Parsche
  • P. Schramel
Original Article


We report on the morphological and trace element findings of several internal organs from an Egyptian mummy approximately dating from the year 950 B.C. according to 14C-analysis. By use of a multidisciplinary approach we succeeded in discovering evidence for severe and presumably recurrent pulmonary bleeding during life. This was suggested by the finding of massive haemosiderin deposits in the lung and a selectively and markedly elevated level of iron in trace element analysis of the lung tissue. Furthermore, we observed an enhanced deposition of birefringent particles in the lung tissue, without significant fibrosis. The histological analysis of liver, stomach and intestine confirmed the macroscopic organ diagnoses without evidence of any major pathological processes. In addition, analysis for various drugs revealed a significant deposition of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), nicotine and cocaine in several organs of the mummy. The concentration profiles additionally provide evidence for a preferential inhalation of THC, while nicotine and cocaine containing drugs seem to have been consumed orally.

Key words

Paleopathology Pulmonary haemorrhage Parasitosis Drugs 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Balabanova S, Parsche F, Pirsig W (1992) First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies. Naturwissenschaften 8:358Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bar-Ziv J, Goldberg GM (1974) Simple siliceous pneumoconiosis in Negev bedouins. Arch Env Health 29:121–126Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Böck P (1989) Mikroskopische Technik. Urban and Schwarzenberg. Munich, pp 399–400Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cockburn A, Barraco RA, Reyman TA, Peck WH (1975) Autopsy of an Egyptian mummy. Science 187:1155–1160Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cockburn A, Cockburn E (1980) Mummies, disease, and ancient culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 65–66, 77–80, 260Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Domino EF, Hornbach E, Demana T (1983) The nicotine content of common vegetables. N Engl J Med 329:437Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Grapow H (1958) Medizin der Alten Ägypter/IV/1. Akademie Verlag, Berlin, pp 151–152Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Parsche F, Ziegelmayer G (1985) Munich Mummy Project — New results. In: Schoske S (ed) Akten des 4, Int. Ägyptologenkongresses. Helmut Buske Verlag, Hamburg, pp 287–299Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Parsche F, Willershausen-Zönnchen B, Hamm G (1991) Spurenelementenuntersuchungen an Zahnsteinen von Individuen historischer Populationen. Dtsch Zahn-Mund-Kieferheilkd 79:219–223Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Parsche F, Balabanova S, Pirsig W (1993) Drugs in ancient populations. Lancet 341:503Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Parsche F (1993) Drugs in ancient populations (author's reply) Lancet 341:1157Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Parsche F, Nerlich A (1995) Presence of drugs in different tissues of an Egyptian mummy. Fresenius J Anal Chem 352:380–384Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Policart A, Collet A (1952) Deposition of siliceous dust in the lungs of the inhabitants of the Saharan regions. Arch Ind Hyg Occup Med 5:527–534Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ruffer MA (1921) Histologic studies in Egyptian mummies. In: Moodie RL (ed) Paleopathology in Egypt. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 49–61Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Smith EG, Dawson WR (1924) Egyptian mummies. George Allen and Unwin, LondonGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Tapp E, Curry A, Anfield C (1975) Sand pneumoconiosis in an Egyptian mummy. Br Med J 2:276Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Tapp E (1979) Disease in the Manchester mummies. In: David AR (ed) Manchester museum mummy project. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp 95–102Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Tapp E (1986) Histology and histopathology of the Manchester Mummies. In: David RA (ed) Science in egyptology. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp 347–350Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Zimmerman MR (1979) Pulmonary and osseous tuberculosis in an Egyptian mummy. Bull NY Acad Med 55:604–608Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. G. Nerlich
    • 1
  • I. Wiest
    • 1
  • U. Löhrs
    • 1
  • F. Parsche
    • 2
  • P. Schramel
    • 3
  1. 1.Pathologisches Institut der Universität MünchenMünchenGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Anthropologie und Humangenetik der Universität MünchenMünchenGermany
  3. 3.Gesellschaft fY:ur Strahlen- und UmweltforschungInstitut für Ökologische ChemieNeuherbergGermany

Personalised recommendations