Thanx for the Cocaine Mummies column, Cecil! :)

Well, finally! http://www.straightdope.com/columns/010126.html

I get SO TIRED of having to look up “cocaine mummies” on Google for people, and then having to rummage through all that Svetla Balabanova stuff. Virtually the only thing on the Web is the BBC show, linked and linked and linked to every “Ancient Mariners” and “Atlantis” and “We Are Not Alone” website there is. So thanks, Unc, for filtering it for me.

:slight_smile:

Duck Duck Goose, I never would have figured that you moved in the kind of social circles where “cocaine mummies” was a common topic of conversation.

When my friends and I get together for tea and crumpets, we usually discuss rose bushes and the care thereof.

Here’s a thought; these are organic compounds. Why not use radioactive dating methods to establish their age? Sheesh, some people need to be handed every new idea.

It seems quite possible that the mummies in question, had they ever left Egypt for museum use, could have been packed with illicit drugs for transport overseas… Crtainly something to consider, and would radiactive dating not be able to sort that out for us?

If, in fact, the drug traces were found to be as old as the mummies… Then it would seem further investigation is warranted…

Organic compounds can, in principle, be dating using carbon-14, but you need a good bit of material (a couple of grams, I think) for it to work. What’s being reported here is only microscopic traces.

When traces of cocaine and nicotine was discovered on the hair of ancient Egyptian mummies, the first theory was that this was possibly introduced later, as espresso suggested. But they did further tests - the hair was washed in alcohol and other cleaners to strip off outer contaminants and the core of the hair was tested. Cocaine and nicotine were still found, which apparently proved that the mummified persons had ingested them before death.

Really? Was this find in the hair documented? I’d like to learn more about it.

And sorry to be piggybacking myself, but it occurs to me that there are other forms of radioactive dating, I believe (like cesium?) that require much smaller samples than carbon-14. Again, my knowledge of this area is limited, but I do find it hard to believe no one suggested collecting enough sample to try…

Suppose the people who were mummified were regular users of cocaine, hashish, and tobacco. We don’t have to postulate an ancient transcontinental trade in these substances. Perhaps the people who got mummified were time travellers who journeyed to ancient Egypt from some future era, annoyed the locals in some manner, and wound up mummies.

So, you’re saying that there’s a chance Ms. Balabanova is right? Is there a cite for this somewhere? 'Cause I just told a staff member over at Tri-State Tinfoil Hats that it was all hooey, and if it’s true, she’s gonna be entitled to a big fat “I told you so”.

Or is my Sarcasm Detector malfunctioning? :confused:

P.S. Oh, Arnold, roses? :rolleyes: How dull. Here, dear boy, here’s something to perk up the next meeting of the Garden Club. Scroll down to the amazing story of Dorothea of Caesarea, “303: A VISITOR FROM THE GARDEN OF ALLAH?”

http://ufoinfo.com/roundup/v05/rnd05_09.shtml

One of my favorites, with a marvelously high H.Q.–“Huh?” Quotient.

Is it possible that there wasn’t a “transatlantic” drug trade going on… that the continents involved possibly had a land bridge or were only 5-10 miles apart at the time the tests show the nicotine & cocaine were “ingested” by the people who are these mummies? Does everyone forget that the world’s land masses and water masses have changed drastically between the time the “mummies” were alive & running around “doin’ dope”-- & the time they were found & scientists were beginning to test DNA samples??

Heck, they probably just took a quick jog down to the local “crack hut” when they needed a fix.

There are a lot of theories about the undertaking of huge “transatlantic” travels… the sources for the drugs were probably right next door. The Eqyptians and a few of the Peruvian, Mayan, and other “ancient cultures” have alot more in common than just drug usage… buildings, crops, religions, astronomy, government, language usage… even ancestorially and physically they have similar characteristics…

We live on a very small rock in relation to the Universe…

To keep thinking the Egyptians were/are soooo “special”, “advanced”, “different”, or whatever… seems to be very narrow minded & creates culture/world insensitivity/prejudice. Believe it or not-- we are ALOT more similar all around the world, now, as well as in the ancient times. I realize many archeological scientists would be out of a job if it was a widely accepted fact… they need to help perpetuate the “differences” & sensationalize anything they can think of to justify the millions of dollars they waste on “proving” the past.

I cannot believe that it can be a big surprise that the ancient peoples had cocaine & nicotine in their DNA… whoopie doo. Tell me they had access to 1.28 GB processors and I’ll take an interest.

I give up, dawnimal. Was that the funniest spoof ihave ever read, or were you serious?

I confess that I think there’s something wrong here, but, although I am more open to ideas of transoceanic contact than the archeological establishment is, this just reads wrong. Are we to suppose regular traffic to two different zones of the New World, and no mention of it in Egyptian records? Not to mention that Egyptian literature does not seem to mention drug use, either.

My bet – some other alkaloid. Maybe even something introduced in the mummification process.

Oh boy

Well, I used to lurk in the old sci.archaeo newsgroup and I do recall this topic was discussed back at the time.

Points raised, in addition to Cecil’s were:
The testing for traces did not address the issue of old world compounds with similar or even identical signatures to those of ‘cocaine’ and ‘marajauna’
(a) working on memory, I recall that several it was mentioned that several old world plants (found in Africa) contained the active compounded tested for re cocaine. If Egyptians used or ate such plants, one would indeed find traces in the hair as apparently happened. Same goes for nicotine.

Ergo, unless the German researchers respond to criticisms and address not only the issue of contamination but also of old world plants with similar compounds, all we have is bad science.

Now, assuming this post is serious (if not then whack me with a sarcasm meter):

When do you think our mummified Egyptians were around? Land masses and the like have not changed drastically in the past, let me exagerate and say 7000 years. Continental drift operates on a scale of milloins of years, significant changes in land mass position perhaps seen on a scale of hundreds of thousands of years.

Frankly, an international trade in such things is likely, but in the restricted area of the Mediterranean or through the known routes. Cross atlantic and cross pacific trade is unlikely at best. At best.

Anachronistic thinking will not be terribly helpful in understanding chemical/drug use in the ancient world.

There are lots of crackpots.

Other than the fact they are seperated by thousands of years from each other?

Nope. (other than pyramids, which of course are among the simplest monumental structures to build. Seperate development)

Nope.

Only in New Agey imaginations. (Without denying a certain commonality based on common human experience and concerns.)

See above.

That’s just plain whacko.

??? This is SDMB you know.

And a huge planet in relation to our own scale. Irrelevant.

I’ll agree here. Egypt had a coherent society based on the ability of the elite to control and extract surpluses. Given the geography, the Pharoahs could exploit the population with fairly decent efficiency, no where to run off to you know. Ergo, the ruling classes had the surplus to invest in monumental projects like pyramids and the like, as well as develop arts and the like.

What the fuck are you talking about? (1) Archaeologists never have budgets in millions (2) I’ve yet to see archaeologists (as opposed to crackpots outside the field) sensantionalize.

sigh, never mind.

Moi sarcastic??? Perhaps… But, puhleeze just chill… main point is: they had access to & “ergo” used drugs. So what? Which culture doesn’t? Were they “drugs” as we know them or catagorize them? Noooo… Were they ingestables that made them feel good, they didn’t know why… so they didn’t feel the need to document them? Probably…

Many people in our day do not feel that caffiene, nicotine, or alcohol are drugs. Remember they still used cocaine in Coca-Cola up into the 1900’s. Will our culture keep extensive documentation on our usage of Bud Lite in certain societal customs…???

Collounsbury, do y’all have “New Agey” powers that can go back and see the trade routes? The way the land laid? How these people really lived?

I guarantee that the African continent is nowhere near the proximity it was 7000 yrs ago… or however long ago… the timing is irrelevant. It also was less likely to be as huge a dessert area as it is now. Land masses can change in an instant-- please note the earthquakes that just happened in India… in South America a week or two ago…

I give y’all the following scenario…

A couple of islands, let’s say 5, spanned across the Atlantic once upon a time… a few hundred miles apart.

These islands hosted peoples that were similar to Egyptians, who were living on the two closest islands to Africa, and, similar to the people of Southern America, who were living on the two closest to that continent. The middle island served as a hub for trade and cultural exchange… building ideas… languages … foods… animals… textiles… genes… just about everything…

Then POOF An earthquake happened one day without warning (watch the Discovery channel tonight for an example…) or a volcano blew it’s top…(Mt Pele, Ohh-- the Hawaiian islands??) Maybe a peice of glacier broke off and melted really fast… (the Bering Straight), or a meteor hit the ocean and sunk the islands & killed most of the people…(I was going to refer to the demise of all the dinosaurs , but , far be it from me to expose more of my “whackoness”.)

Maybe the bottom of the ocean floor opened up and sucked them in at the height of the culture’s exsistance… Maybe it happened immediately or over a few thousand years…

Do we know that any of this didn’t happen? No…?

Regardless, I believe it’s more than likely that there is a perfectly reasonable and painfully obvious scenario that explains the trace of drug components found in the DNA of ancient peoples, as well as, many of the idiosyncrasies we think they have.

Why spend thousands…or millions of dollars… exaggerated you think?? :confused:, trying to dis-prove or ap-prove the past??

Maybe the scientists need to get away from their disciplines a leeettle more often and take a look at the real world… take a wider look at “the forest” as opposed to just climbing around “the trees”.

Can’t we just take the information as it is… learn from it’s face value… teach others about it or just share with them? Learn from the ancient peoples evils that may be the cause of societal and cultural downfalls?

Maybe if we’re lucky, our world’s history, as we know it, will provide helpful & useful information to the future people’s who study us when we’re gone… Maybe the future people will find something better to do with their energy, time, and monies than worry about why and how our people got and used drugs.

Unless, of course, it turns out to be our culture’s primary reason for it’s downfall… :eek:

After reading what everybody has had to say on the subject of Egyptians and their possible use of cocaine and nicotine and more importantly their engagement in transatlantic trade, I think that we can safely conclude two things:
1.) There’s much we do not know and may never know about Egyptians.
2.) The truth is stranger than fiction. (Sorry for the cliche.)
One thing I do wonder about in this whole debate over them is the transatlantic trade route. Now I admit I’m not an Egyptian scholar, but I wonder about a culture that had the ability to come up with the concept of zero, that could create and apply complex concepts of geometry and chart the stars with precision. If they could do all this, why couldn’t they engage in transatlantic travel/trade? I believe one of the elements of travel on the ocean is the application of math and astronomy in charting routes. Correct me if I’m wrong.
I personally could care less if they used these drugs. What upsets me anytime I see people talking about ancient Egypt is the cavalier attitudes that come into play. Whether it’s an Egyptian scholar, an archeologist, or a just a person who’s interested in–but doesn’t know much about the accepted scholarship or the history of this ancient culture–we can’t help but bring our own 21st Century biases to whatever artifacts we find. And it is these biases that ultimately hinder us from ever fully understanding what ancient Egyptians or any other ancient culture for that matter did and why they did it.

A brilliant theory that completely explains the total lack of mention of alcoholic beverages in the ancient world!

And this completely explains the total lack of mention of beer in 20th-century books and movies!

I give up! This isn’t fun anymore.

You’re a loon. Go away.

I thik it’s more likely to be insanity and congenital ignorance of the facts, myself. Thanks for sharing!

Sheesh! All this came out of DuckDuck saying thanks to CA??

“–we can’t help but bring our own 21st Century biases to whatever artifacts we find. And it is these biases that ultimately hinder us from ever fully understanding what ancient Egyptians or any other ancient culture for that matter did and why they did it.” Thank you, Celestina!

This is exactly the point I wanted to make.

Unfortunately, my verbosity and way of explaning my view has threatened some people ie. Mr Kennedy, espresso, & Collounsbury, & apparantly they feel the need to be rude.

Obviously, they take somethings a bit toooooo seriously…

laughs I never feel threatened by easily disprovable crackpot ideas, but if it makes you feel better to deceive yourself into thinking you have “cornered” me, then enjoy your little world.

Back to my original points; can anyone give more information on other, more esoteric forms of radioactive dating? Can anyone give info on how such drug residues would be found, references to WHERE they were found, and if the tests could misidentify them? Also, do we have any possession history on the mummies in question? I’m honestly interested in this, crackpots aside.