The Drug Mummies
In the field of so-called "fringe archaeology", great importance is given to the well-known OOPArts and some of them, in particular, have become proof of an alleged contact between the Americas and all those cultures that, in pre-Columbian times, would have landed there without using the land tongue of the Bering Sea.
Among these, the hypothesis that the ancient Egyptians had trade routes with the Americas since the 21st dynasty (around 1000 BC) took on particular relevance following the studies of the German team led by Svetlana Balabanova - a forensic chemist specialized in determining drugs in the human body - which, during the 90s of the last century, devoted himself to series of analyzes on ancient Egyptian, European, Asian and Peruvian mummies, in search of psychoactive drugs.
The incredible findings such as the presence of cocaine and THC (the main active ingredient of Cannabis) in Egyptian mummies and in Peruvian ones made a stir because these date back to a long time before "discovery" of America by Christopher Columbus (1492), which is considered the "identifying" date for the presence of the Cannabis genus in the Americas and for the extra-American knowledge of the coca plant, and all this would seem to give credence to two of the pseudo-archological theses:
1) the ancient Egyptians would have made transatlantic voyages reaching South America and bringing back tobacco in the form of Nicotiana rustica or N. tobacum, and the coca plant (Erythroxylum coca or E. novogranatense).
2) in the Old Continent, some species of plants of the Nicotiana genus would have already been present (and used) in periods long before the arrival of Columbus.
In 1992, Svetlana Balabanova's team, with an article published in the journal Naturewissenschaften and titled "First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies", communicated the results of an investigation carried out on the mummified remains (dated from 1070 BC to 395 AD) of 9 adult individuals, three females and six males, including 7 heads without bodies, and two mummies (one incomplete and one complete) by radioimmunological test and chromatography / mass spectrometry (GC / MS), with finding of cocaine, THC and nicotine.
The drugs were found in hair, soft tissues and bones, which is difficult to explain other than consumption, so having come into contact with cocaine or being sprayed with an insecticide (based on tobacco) could not have justified traces of cocaine and nicotine in the skeleton: initially benzoylecgonine was found, a molecule that forms only after the body has metabolized cocaine.
In 1995 two colleagues from Balabanova, Parsche and Nerlich, wrote an article for the Fresenius Journal of Analytical Chemistry entitled "Presence of drugs in different tissues of an Egyptian mummy" in which the examination of a mummy dated 950 BC, carried out with the same techniques and highlighting that in this case the THC was most likely taken by inhalation, nicotine and cocaine, whose signatures were found in higher concentrations in the liver and intestine, were ingested.
A subsequent test carried out by Balabanova with a new team on other 71 mummies from Egyptian Nubia and dated between 600 and 1100 AD, again led to the discovery of cocaine, present in 79% of the subjects and with a greater concentration in the most young at the time of death.
The possibility that the ancient Egyptians between 1000 BC and 1100 AD traveling between their homeland and South America, bringing back tobacco and coca leaves, however, would have implications that give rise to questions, to date unsolved.
1) Did the Egyptians have boats capable of facing the ocean?
The Egyptians were undoubtedly skilled navigators, they were the first civilization to make an effective use of sails and to use wooden planks for the hulls of boats but river navigation and maritime navigation in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are very different from intercontinental navigation on the open ocean. Egyptian boats, held together with rope or, in the case of the stronger models, built with wooden pegs, were not suitable ships for long-term expeditions that would last months at sea.
2) Why is there no trace of documentation written by the Egyptians on these trips?
Even assuming that the ancient Egyptians possessed ships worthy of the open sea (not yet discovered by archeology) it seems unlikely that an undertaking such as transoceanic voyages and trade with South America was not put in writing when instead they documented commercial voyages in Cyprus and Lebanon and noted the details of technological advances so that future generations could continue their work.
Why keep secret both the existence of such voyages and the methods they used to navigate and how they built the ships that could withstand months-long ocean crossings?
3) Were there no sources of THC, nicotine or cocaine available in Africa, the Near East or Asia that could justify their presence in Egypt without resorting to South America?
In reality it would seem that the Egyptians could have had THC as Cannabis Sativa found its way to the Middle East at least as early as 2000 BC and may even have been traded along the Silk Road before then.
Furthermore, pollen from this plant had already been identified inside the mummy of Ramses II, pharaoh who died in early 1200 BC.
In the article "First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies", no information was reported on the origin of the mummies analyzed and this total lack of information on their biographical history detracts from the credibility of the results presented. Furthermore, the authors of the study did not adopt the methodology of accompanying the analysis of the tested samples with that of control samples, that is, with organic tissues that are certain of the total absence of the alkaloids that are being sought; an important technique for the validation of the results, especially in cases, like this one, of obtaining positive results in all the samples analyzed.
The authors of this research reported as "in excellent agreement" of the use of these drugs among the ancient Egyptians a passage from the Ebers Papyrus - a hieratic writing of the period of the Pharaonic Dynasty XVIII that deals with materia medica - which would refer to use of poppy seeds to calm the crying of children but this data has no value as the drugs found in mummies have nothing to do with those present in the Papaver genus.
The possibility that the mummies had been treated with tobacco-based preservatives (in the past, nicotine-based products were applied to mummies for their preservation as powerful insecticides) is one of the more plausible explanations, as will be seen below.
Another possibility to consider would concern the use during mummification of ingredients based on tropane solanaceae that would give false-positive reactions for cocaine, also having a tropane structure for this alkaloid.
Some English scholars observed that in the nineteenth century, among the conservation practices of mummies, it was customary to sprinkle the remains of tobacco dust, as well as pyrethrum, the latter a compound obtained from species of Tanacetum and also identified in the mummy of Ramesses II; this practice was not limited to Egyptian mummies, but to numerous other European and Asian mummies, and it is plausibly this preservation technique that gave rise to the discovery of fragments of tobacco and nicotine in the mummy of Ramses II and of nicotine in the "doped mummies ” of the Balabanova team.
Elements in favor
Many civilizations and inventions have disappeared without a trace and there are countless historical gaps of gaps to fill: the recent discovery of traces of silk in the hair of a Luxor mummy could indicate a maritime trade between Egypt and China, the only place where silk was produced, in that time.
It has already been shown that some American plants including sweet potatoes and peanuts arrived from the other side of the Pacific Ocean long before Columbus: the sculpture of a goddess holding an ear of corn in a temple in the south of India would seem to suggest the existence of a trade route that would connect it to the Americas.
Likewise, nothing would prohibit tobacco and coca from reaching Egypt, especially as these crops could also have arrived via a land trade route.
History speaks of many ancient crossings of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the past but evidence has come to light which extends the timeline of these activities thousands of years beyond the presently accepted figures: Professor Martin Bernal, a historian at Cornell University, is one of many scholars who conceded that ancient trade links which vastly predate present calculations must have existed.
Evidence showing that the ancient Egyptians had already crossed the Atlantic 3,000 years ago, long before Columbus in 1492, comes not only from the imitation of cultural traditions as seen in Peru and the Canary Islands, where evidence has been found of trepanation and mummification, but the real Egyptian mummies themselves.
John L. Sorenson and Carl L. Johannessen in their "Scientific Evidence for Precolumbian Transoceanic Voyages' reveal that nearly one hundred species of plants, most of them cultivated, were present in both the Eastern and Western hemisphere before the first voyage of Columbus in the Americas and that many of them may have arrived at foreign coasts through transoceanic voyages led by ancient sailors and the presence of anomalous maps would seem to give credence to the idea that the transoceanic voyage took place thousands of years earlier than currently accepted.
“Osiris, to go directly to the important part of this, was not a "dying god," not "life caught in the spell of death," or "a dead god," as modern interpreters have said. He was the hallucinated voice of a dead king whose admonitions could still carry weight. And since he could still be heard, there is no paradox in the fact that the body from which the voice once came should be mummified, with all the equipment of the tomb providing life's necessities: food, drink, slaves, women, the lot. There was no mysterious power that emanated from him; simply his remembered voice which appeared in hallucination to those who had known him and which could admonish or suggest even as it has before he stopped moving and breathing. And that various natural phenomena such as the whispering of waves could act as the cue for such hallucinations accounts for the belief that Osiris, or the king whose body has ceased to move and is in his mummy cloths, continues to control the flooding of the Nile. Further, the relationship between Horus and Osiris, 'embodied' in each new king and his dead father forever, can only be understood as the assimilation of an hallucinated advising voice into the king's own voice, which then would be repeated with the next generation.”
― Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Resurces related to Svetlana Balabanova’s drug mummies and Egyptian transoceanic travel
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