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Presence of drugs in different tissues of an egyptian mummy


Data are presented on the biochemical findings in several intermal organs from an Egyptian mummy with a 14C-dating of approximately 950 B.C. By use of radio immunoassay systems and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, significant amounts of various drugs were detected in internal organs (lung, liver, stomach, intestines) as well as in hair, bone, skin/muscle and tendon. These analyses revealed a significant deposition of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), nicotine (and its metabolite cotinine) and cocaine in the tissue from the mummy. The concentration profiles additionally provide evidence for the preferential ways of consumption: Thus, the highest levels of THC in lung specimens point to an inhalation of this drug — as it has been assumed from known ritual smoking ceremonies —, while nicotine and cocaine containing drugs showed their highest concentrations in the intestines and liver, so that they seem to have been consumed perorally. Furthermore, a histopathological examination of the internal organ tissues revealed some evidence for the underlying disease and the probable cause of death. Thus, a severe and presumably recurrent intravital pulmonary bleeding, most obviously due to a parasitosis affecting the lung, was observed.

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Parsche, F., Nerlich, A. Presence of drugs in different tissues of an egyptian mummy. Fresenius J Anal Chem 352, 380–384 (1995).

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  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine
  • Concentration Profile
  • Histopathological Examination
  • Underlying Disease