Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby jw1815 » Mon Aug 24, 2009 6:16 am

One problem with the mummies is provenance – a continuous, reliable record of them, from the time of discovery (decades or centuries earlier) to the time of the testing.

One reason for provenance problems is gruesome to think about, but real.

As early as 1100 BC, Egyptian tombs were robbed by fellow Egyptians during a period of governmental decline and desperation for money. Bodies were cast aside in piles leaving them unidentifiable. Much later, when Medieval and early modern Europeans became obsessed with what they believed were the mystical properties of ancient Egyptian society and people, they collected mummies to grind into powder for medicine that European doctors gave to their patients. In some parts of Europe and the US (and other European-based societies), that practice continued into the early 1800’s. Doctors and medical students also obtained Egyptian mummies to study anatomy, practice surgical procedures, etc. Forbidden by law to use cadavers for study and experiments, doctors turned to black market suppliers of Egyptian mummies and unclaimed bodies of European vagrants and the poor. A chain of connections existed for obtaining bodies, from Europe to the Near East. If suppliers ran out of real mummies or their connections were disrupted, fake substitutes were sold. And, well off Victorians collected mummies and Egyptian artifacts as a hobby, later donating some to museums. Body suppliers weren't necessarily scrupulous about anything, let alone separating the fakes from the real ones in their supplies. Museum sources, even when “well documented,” aren’t totally reliable. Mummies containing cocaine and tobacco might be the dead bodies of 18th and 19th century drug-addicted European vagrants. DNA testing could sort them out today. I'm not aware of any DNA tests done to verify the origins of the mummies, though it seems obvious that it would answer questions about it.

Here’s an example of how Egyptian mummies were handled in the past. It’s the story of some hucksters’ acquisition of a mummy now tentatively identified as Ramses, father of Seti I.

http://www.egyptianmuseum.com/article16_torlife.html
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Rokcet Scientist » Mon Aug 24, 2009 7:01 am

jw1815 wrote:
[...] Mummies containing cocaine and tobacco might be the dead bodies of 18th and 19th century drug-addicted European vagrants. [...]



No, jw: a German professor from the University of Muenich/München did a survey with her students, about a decade ago, of 750 Egyptian mummies (members of Egypt's upper classes), dating from 1,500 BC to 500 BC. They especially studied the mummies' hair. The hair of 35% of those mummies proved to contain clear traces of heroin, cannabis, cocaïne, and tobacco. I.o.w.: they were regular junkies when they were alive!

One can only become a junkie if one has a regular supply of an addictive drug. I.o.w. there was regular trade of addictive drugs. And it must have been global trade, i.o.w. circumnavigation, because tobacco and cocaïne come from south America!

So 'they' – whoever they were – were already circumnavigating the globe for drug trading 3,500 years BP! Bye-bye Columbus, irish monks, Leif Erickson, etc. ...

I suspect the Phoenicians and/or Minoans.
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Minimalist » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:40 am

That study attracted quite a bit of flak when it came out......


http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2375/whats-up-with-the-cocaine-mummies
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Rokcet Scientist » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:41 am

Minimalist wrote:That study attracted quite a bit of flak when it came out......

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2375/whats-up-with-the-cocaine-mummies


Yep, from your friends: "The Club".
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Minimalist » Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:16 am

There is nothing wrong with asking for evidence, R/S.

It is when the evidence is provided and they still try to ignore it ( i.e., "pre-clovis") that it becomes problematical. If someone told you they had found Bertram Russell's teapot would you say, "Okay..now that's settled."
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Rokcet Scientist » Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:00 pm

Minimalist wrote:There is nothing wrong with asking for evidence, R/S.


Of course there isn't. So pack your bags and off you go. To Munich.
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Take3 » Mon Aug 24, 2009 7:58 pm

The Cocaine mummies are interesting, I must say I've not heard any conclusive evidence to prove they are a hoax.

When watching the documentary (years ago) I did immediately discount the test for tobacco as contaminated, I, mean the things have spent decades in primarily male staffed institutions which for most of that time would have allowed smoking indoors. just the buildup of tobacco residue over that period could taint the result.

And the presence of cocaine is problematic for me also,

Firstly the ability to extract cocaine from coca leaf has only been known in the western tradition since the middle 19thC. Ancient South Americans only chewed the leaf and have been theorised to use a poultice of spit and coca leaf as an anaesthetic.

Chewed coca leaf is about as strong as coffee, certainly not "interesting" enough from a medical or recreational standpoint to make it worthy of taking up space on a pre-historic trans-atlantic voyage.

It's also perishable in raw form and proportianally less psychoactive when dried making trasportable coca less attractive again.

Khat is a different family of plants and chemicals but has been used in North Africa/Middle East for generations (no firm date) in much the same way as Coca was in the new world.

So in short, why bother.

Don't get me started on questions of why, Corn, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Cassava etc never came back the other way, if such a trade route did exist.
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Rokcet Scientist » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:12 pm

Take3 wrote:[...] Don't get me started on questions of why, Corn, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Cassava etc never came back the other way, if such a trade route did exist.


Because their weight/value ratio wasn't interesting enough to mount an undertaking like a circumnavigation for.
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby jw1815 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:53 pm

RS

I’m aware of the mummy tests and the scientists who conducted them. Like several other people, I learned about them in the mid 90’s from a TV program, in my case, a documentary on American PBS. There are 3 scientists whose names are closely involved with the tests - Dr. Svetla Balabanova of Germany, Dr. Michelle Lescot of France, and Dr.Rosalie David of Britain. (No, I didn’t memorize the names and had to look them up, but I did remember that a few scientists were involved in the discovery.)

For anyone not familiar with the background on this, here’s a transcript of a British video:

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Misc/mummies.htm

Long before those tests, I speculated on whether or not intermediary or direct contact once existed between the Near East and the Americas. I don’t even use the term “New World” because I think it creates a mindset that North and South America didn’t exist until other regions of the world discovered that they do. Language does influence thought, and “New World” creates a false paradigm. It wasn’t new to a few millions of human residents prior to 1492. It wasn’t new to prehistoric dinosaurs. And it’s not “new” geologically, since sections of continental rock base, e.g. the Canadian Shield, have been around a few billion years, and were once part of the “Old World” before continental drift.

I’m not closed off to new discoveries. Anomalies like cocaine and nicotine in the dead bodies of people from the Near East deserve further investigation. We need to look at other explanations and to accumulate evidence from other fields before drawing conclusions about ancient Near East and American contact. So, to me, the test results are interesting, but not yet conclusive. They stimulate hypotheses about what they might mean, but they’re still just hypotheses until more investigation and accumulations of evidence.

One reason why I like to follow the work of archaeologists like James Adovasio is that, when presented with resistance about Meadowcroft, he has persisted in another direction (Florida coast) that might offer evidence about people in America. He’s looking for pre-Clovis, but might even find something about ancient civilizations as well.
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby jw1815 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:57 pm

RS

Back to specifics in your post. You’d help your case better if you’d slow down a bit. Nit-picking details are tedious, but they do matter a great deal in science.

Some objections to the test results are valid and need to be adequately answered before we can say that the tests confirm the use of tobacco and cocaine by ancient Egyptians.

Yes, hair shaft tests do indicate that a drug was ingested while the person was alive. In fact, they’re performed on living people by police, employers, and probation officers. But drug usage over several years isn’t necessary for them to show up in hair. Police investigators use the tests for prosecuting murder by poisoning. Drugs show up on hair follicles (the root base) as early as five days after ingestion. The farther down the hair shaft they’re found, the longer the person was using the drug.

But, all substances have a limit on stability, which varies according to the substance. In other words, they can degrade chemically over several years, into their base component elements and into other chemical compounds. That possibility has been suggested by some biochemists regarding 3000 year old Egyptian mummies. I’m not a biologist or chemist, so I can’t evaluate their claims. I’ve only had enough chemistry and biology to know that such things are possible.. In fact, that’s the principle that carbon 14 and other archaeological dating techniques are based on – the degradation of chemicals into other elements and compounds over a period of time.

The implication of chemical degradation over time is that a related substance to nicotine or cocaine could have been ingested and then, after degradation, could contain alkaloids similar to nicotine and cocaine, without proving that those were the source drugs of the chemical test results.

Cocaine is indigenous to South America. Tobacco wasn’t limited to S. America, but existed in N. America as well. The test results showed nicotine, a chemical ingredient of tobacco. Other plants in the tobacco family– belladonna, henbane, and mandrake – contain enough amounts of nicotine to show up in the concentrations found in the tests and they’re all present in other regions of the world. Numerous other plants contain some amounts of nicotine, although not in the concentrations found in the mummies. So, the presence of nicotine doesn’t establish the use of tobacco, only the use of plants containing nicotine.

Nicotine has an antibiotic effect on bacteria. Since Egyptians were obsessed with preserving bodies, they might have used nicotine-containing herbs and plants in mummy wrappings to delay decomposition from bacteria. Nicotine concentrations increase through skin absorption. That’s how nicotine patches work for people trying to quit smoking. Can it be absorbed through hair? I don’t know. But - The chemicals in modern hair dyes operate by opening up the shaft to deposit color inside it (information courtesy of my sister-in-law, who’s a hairdresser). Perhaps nicotine-containing Egyptian burial plants had a similar effect and were absorbed into the skin and hair for 3000 years before being tested.

IMO, the case for cocaine is stronger. But, even that has its chemical drawbacks. There are plants in the coca family that are indigenous to Africa. They don’t contain the cocaine compound, but, again, the suggestion is that chemical decomposition over 3000 years might produce the base alkaloids that imply cocaine, without cocaine ever being ingested by the ancient Egyptians.
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby jw1815 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:58 pm

RS

I think you missed my point about the provenance of mummies. Police use provenance to guard evidence used in trials. It means having documentation of where evidence was found and who has handled it since its first discovery. Provenance is important for establishing that the evidence source is real and not fake or tampered.

How does this apply to mummies? The scientists who tested the mummies got them from museums. But, where did the museums get them? The one that Dr. Balabanova tested was donated to the museum from the private collection of King Ludwig of Bavaria. King Ludwig had bought the sarcophagus from an English traveler in 1845 and there was no record of an exact excavation. The prevalent belief – unproven – was that the mummy came from a tomb reserved for priests and priestesses of the god Amun in Thebes. But there’s no record to establish that the body was in fact an ancient Egyptian mummy.

Given the past trafficking of fake mummies – especially in the Victorian period – this mummy might not have been ancient or even Egyptian. It might have been a recently deceased person, passed off as a mummy for monetary gain. What kind of person could mummy salespeople have used as fakes? The kind of person who doesn’t have anyone to claim the body after death – convicted criminals, vagrants, homeless, ill, kidnapped, etc. Drug addiction was fairly common in Victorian times in Europe as well as other parts of the world. Addiction sometimes caused well-off persons to become social outcasts, rejected by their families as embarrassing derelicts. So, Dr. Balabanova’s mummy might have been a deceased drug addict from the 1840’s instead of an ancient Egyptian mummy.

Quite a few Egyptian mummies in museums are not verifiable as genuine, ancient specimens.
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby jw1815 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 4:05 pm

Firstly the ability to extract cocaine from coca leaf has only been known in the western tradition since the middle 19thC. Ancient South Americans only chewed the leaf and have been theorised to use a poultice of spit and coca leaf as an anaesthetic.

Chewed coca leaf is about as strong as coffee, certainly not "interesting" enough from a medical or recreational standpoint to make it worthy of taking up space on a pre-historic trans-atlantic voyage.

It's also perishable in raw form and proportianally less psychoactive when dried making trasportable coca less attractive again.


Very good points, Take3.

Don't get me started on questions of why, Corn, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Cassava etc never came back the other way, if such a trade route did exist.


Another very good point. I want to know why Egyptians - or other Near East societies - didn't take horses to America. The Native population sure could have used them. :wink:
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Minimalist » Tue Aug 25, 2009 5:34 pm

Were horses all that big in Egypt?

They were not famous as cavalrymen. Horse-drawn chariots maybe, but Hollywood aside, it does not seem as if there would have been that many of them.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Rokcet Scientist » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:00 pm

And they make for difficult passengers on board.
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Re: Egyptian Glyphs in Australia???

Postby Take3 » Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:29 pm

Rokcet Scientist wrote:
Take3 wrote:[...] Don't get me started on questions of why, Corn, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Cassava etc never came back the other way, if such a trade route did exist.


Because their weight/value ratio wasn't interesting enough to mount an undertaking like a circumnavigation for.


Veggies are heavy and perishable, and food is very cultural, so the difficulty in establishing a market for an unfammilar food in a place which was bursting with wheat already, may have been seen as a waste of time. So I agree its a reasonable conclusion.

But the veggies we're talking about are no ordinary crops. Spuds and corn are the highest yield per acre foodstuffs we have (from memory Cassava has a simmilar claim to fame also). All three also grow better in marginal land than most old world staples.

Proof of their value can be seen from the population explosions brought about by their respective introductions into Europe (potatoes) Africa (corn) and Asia (Cassava).

Corn at least can be grown from seed which frees it from the weight requirement, however I'll accept that it's inability to self pollinate may have baffled Ancient Old World farmers.

Though I maintain, that Coca can be excluded for volume/value ratio in much the same way as the above. Particularly when you consider medicines like Khat and Ephedra which were used analagously and were already well known. Whilst New World veggies do represent a step up from their counterparts
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