Cocaine Mummies ???

I was looking at a few documentaries about Egypt tonight and it made me think about the “Cocaine Mummies” ie. Mummies that were found with traces of cocaine in them.

I found this old thread Tobacco In Ancient Egyptian Tombs? dated from Dec. '99.

The Mystery of the Cocaine Mummies is a Ch.4 program about it dated from 1996.

So has anyone got any new info. on this ?

It’s highly unlikely cocaine could find its way to ancient Egypt from the coca plant’s native South America. I’ll bet you missed this thread that discusses it because the title is obscure.

I did miss that one, thanks.

So any new members experts in ancient transatlantic travel ?

I’m not exactly an expert, but here goes.

Thor Heyerdahl seemed to prove that at very least, travel from Africa to South America was indeed very possible, via the Ra Expeditions. He noticed that the reed boats used on Lake Titicaca in South America were virtually identical to ancient pictures of Egyptian papyrus boats, and set out to see if the papyrus boats could make the trip.

Darned if they don’t happen to be seaworthy as all heck, and capable of going one way, at least . . . don’t see why they wouldn’t be able to return.

Mind you, some of Mr. Heyerdahl’s other theories have been discredited, but that doesn’t undermine the basic fact he proved that it could have been done. Same as the Kon-Tiki expedition really did help spark a revival in traditional forms of navigation in Polynesia, as well as demonstrate anothe possible way for people to have settled there.

I think it’ll be a while longer before we see any real definite proof, apparently it just occurred to many that the most likely sites to find this evidence are underwater. Coastlines have changed dramatically over the last 5,000 years or so . . .

As for Saint Brendan, he got his directions off the fishermen who’d been fishing off the Grand Banks for generations. :stuck_out_tongue:

There is also some question about a Prince Madoc of Wales, links here and here. However, apparently there’s considerable debate whether or not he actually existed. And as for the second link, I also heard somewhere that the Mandan tribe of First Nations (along with the Lummee) exhibited Caucasian characteristics because that’s where the Roanoke colonists really went. Take yer pick.

And general comments on seaworthiness of ancient vessels - when you hear about dugout canoes, I bet most people think of the crude, hollowed-out log type. Check these out, especially the ones on the left, then look at this one. I don’t see why they couldn’t be seagoing rather than just coastal. And if you follow the Aleutian island chain down from Alaska, there you are within spittin’ distance of both Russia and Japan.

Then there is some evidence suggesting there was ancient Japanese trade on the West coast of South America (anchor stones found in, I think, San Francisco Bay). The coast Salish had full body hair, unlike most First Nations. There’s a theory that the Salish are/were related to the Ainu of ancient Japan.

In other words, most anthropologists are pretty sure it occurred, but definitive proof is pretty thin at the moment.

I wanna know how the possible Australian Aborigine made it to Tierra del Fuego. To nutshell this one, and I REFUSE TO GET INTO THE GREAT DEBATES ON RACIAL TYPING I AM PERFECTLY AWARE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS SORT OF THING, the skeletal charateristics of an ancient skeleton found in Tierra del Fuego most closely resemble the Australian Aborigines. Neat.

Anyways, this post is awfully long and I bet you’re tired of the lecture anyways.

:looks around, sees empty room, slinks off:


Ack. I did preview, honest.


Japanese trade on the West coast of South America (anchor stones found in, I think, San Francisco Bay).

Of course, that should be North.

:really going away now:

Of course, on the north western coast of South America, there is pottery that reflects the Jamon style from Japan. It most likely is just a similar style that was developed indepdently, but of course the possibility of contact remains. Like I said before, contact does not imply a relationship.

No, you’re right. Contact does not imply relationship.

However, I think that the evidence for the relationships is likely currently buried under 300 ft of seawater and silt. Or buried in some private collector’s hoard of illegal antiquities. Or smashed under the boots of the pothunters. Then we have the hoary old argument of how much evidence constitutes proof. Don’t wanna go there.

As near as I can tell without being an anthropologist or archaelogist, most of the information for just about anything that far back is 15% evidence, and 85% informed speculation. At least where the Americas are concerned.

I’m not as up on East Coast ancient history as I am on West Coast, I’m afraid.

IIRC, the book “Prelude to Bonanza” by Allen A. Wright, which covers some of the history of the Northern BC/Yukon/Alaska prior to the Gold Rush of 1898, says that there is evidence that the Tlingit and Salish traded with tribes in Russia (definitely) and Japan(possibly) - I’ll check when I go home.

I suppose that doesn’t really help with the OP involving ancient transAtlantic trade. :slight_smile: Now I’m gonna have to go digging . . . didn’t I hear somewhere that the Phoenicians may have . . .where was that anyways . . . and howcum my boss doesn’t see how vital this question is?

:hurries away to do some of the work that she’s getting paid for:


Hey, HEY! We’ll have none of that here! Get back and eradicate ignorance. You employer can deduct your salary costs as a contribution to world intelligence. :wink:

Yes SIR Mr. Mod. sir.

All I’ve found so far is this, regarding Viking contact with the Arctic in the 13th century. And then again we have Mr. Farley Mowat being a twit here. He may have a good theory, but . . .well, just consider the source.

As for the Japanese stuff, well, we have this, while it doesn’t say anything about continued contact, it’s still interesting.

Will add more as I do further searches.


Well, judging by how far back on the list this thread was, everybody seems to have lost interest but me.


“Prelude to Bonanza”, unfortunately doesn’t have the info I was looking for. While it documents the trade with Russia starting in 1818, it only touches lightly on trade prior to that. Japan, if mentioned at all, is only in passing. The focus of the author was on the “discovery” of the Yukon and its exploration before the Gold Rush.

Sigh. However, there is a strong oral tradition among the Tlingit First Nations that indeed it did happen on a regular basis. Can’t give any cites - got it straight from the sources. Again unfortunately, timeframes are awfully vague, anything over sixty or seventy years ago was “in my grandfather’s time”.

Therefore, in conclusion (whew, I hear you saying), there seems to be sufficient evidence (IMHO) to state that there was ancient transPACIFIC trade, however, evidence has not yet been found for sustained ancient transATLANTIC trade.

However, there is enough evidence for a strong suspicion that it happened.

If anyone else has any info, I’d love to hear it. Just because I wanna know.


Which transpacific (I doubt trans, perhaps coastal, which is infinitately more reasonable) or transatlantic?

Transatlantic trade was well nigh impossible before the 15th century for reasons related to the pattern of prevailing winds and currents. Perhaps someone got over (from the old world) but getting back would have been a highly risky experiment at best.

Apologies for the added post:

a few years back on the usenet there were some violent discussions of this mummy issue.

Working on memory, I recall the skeptics dredged up the following specifics:
(1) The chemical compound which ids cocaine also occurs, albeit in lower quantities in some old world plants.
(2) Some species of relatively common plants carrying such compound(s) are found in Africa, albeit not in modern Egypt.
(3) the tobacco and cocaine residues (actually chemical compounds used as markers) were located, as I recall in tissue so require contemporaneous exposure. (As I recall a big complaint at the time was the Russian researcher had not published the results in full making it very hard to confirm)

The alternate and more believable hypothesis put forth was
(1) Somewhere in the mummy making process a plant or plants expressing the relevant compounds were used.
(2) Such plants were (a) extant in ancient Egypt (b) in the alternative traded as part of the known and recorded trade with more southerly regions.

All in all mid-Atlantic crossings (open sea) before the 14th or 15th century are right out impossible (I mean with return). The North Atlantic crossings by the Scandinavians and possibly by an odd Celt were in a more favorable coastal, wind and current regime than the rather unforgiving mid-Atlantic.

(I’ll also note that modern scholarship takes a dim view of claims re the Phonecians going much beyond upper modern Morocco for the same technical reasons.)

  1. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has on display a Northwest Coast suit of armor covered by Chinese coins. Don’t recall the date – the artifact itself probably doesn’t date much before 1850, but I suppose the coins could be older.

  2. I’m the last person to invoke political correctness, but it’s a tad short-sighted to believe that American Indians, who have survived on this continent for some 10,000 years, couldn’t along the way have invented the odd boat or pyramid totally on their own.

  3. I’m not familiar with the anthropometric data linking Australian Aboriginies to natives of Tierra del Fuego. Aboriginies first arrived in Australia about 40,000 years ago, if memory serves, but soon thereafter seem to have dropped boat-making from their cultural repetoire. Polynesians (distant relatives of the Aboriginies) did not reach Easter Island (the closest island to South America) until 500 AD. If any TdF artifacts are older than that, then I think we can rule out an Aboriginie connection, and chak it up to chance / convergent evolution. (An Antarctic circumpolar trip is pretty much out of the question – the seas down there are way too rough.)

I saw that. I don’t think a trickle of round the coast trade is at all excludable. But that is not the same thing as massive trans-oceanic trade. I’m going with your feeling here also.

Precisely. Of course given pyramidal structures are among the simplest load bearing monumental forms, its no surprise they crop up in widely dispersed places.

Or we might suppose that among the early folks to come down through the Americas were groups whose morphology, either through convergance as you mention or through actual relatedness, was close to Aboriginal Aussi. Recent work has fairly clearly indicated that the original settlement of the Americas had a more diverse origin (in terms of what Asian populations it drew from) than originally thought. Should be no surprise that some early folks did not fit in the mold. I again go with you in saying this is no reason to suppose vast-trans oceanic voyages.

From just where does this bit about the difficulty of transAtlantic travel arise ? I don’t buy into that - not yet anyway.

By way of comparison, Austronesian peoples made it Tahiti-to-Hawaii, covering zones of completely different prevailing winds and quite a stretch of doldrums, not to mention very different star groups and currents.

It comes from scholars analyses of the prevailing currents and winds in the mid-Atlantic region. I’m not in front of my references now so I’m afraid I can’t answer much better than this. As I recall, given there are no mid-Atlantic Islands and given pre-15th century sailing technology, it becomes exceedingly difficult to catch the proper winds/currents in order to make a return journay in the mid-Atlantic (note, mid Atlantic, not North Atlantic).

I apologize for not having a citation handy, its a logistical issue since I’m few hundred miles away from home.

However, they were island hopping, albeit sometimes fairly long distances. Plus, as I read, the storm regime is considerably more forgiving than the Mid-Atlantic. I note that even the Arabs, whose Indian Ocean sailing feats are well-known, did not develop an Atlantic maratime tradition, even though they were dominating the Meditteranean for several long stretches.


Sorry, the Australian-resembling remains seem to be from Brazil, according to Nature magazine here. I should know better than that. Recheck references first, THEN spout off.

However, I seem to remember reading a bunch of different articles about the skeleton a while ago (which I can’t find to link to . . .still looking), and they seemed more definite in identifying the remains as more Australian than African. Nature magazine seems to present both as an option.

hmmh. No, evidence does seem to be sadly lacking for massive trans-oceanic trade. Probably because it was too darn dangerous. But there does seem to be evidence of repeated contact, long enough for limited relationships, in the sub-Arctic regions. Limited by lifespan, availablity of navigable vessels, weather conditions, etc. etc. …

off looking for more references