Malnutrition killed off so many of the wealthiest people before they reached their 30th birthday rather than wars, parasites, or infected teeth, say archaeologists. So senior health was a rare happening because so few people--even the wealthiest lived to become senior citizens. Take for example, some of the most highly populated areas in ancient Egypt. Researchers from the University of Granada and the University of Jaen take part in the excavation of the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis, in the Egyptian region of Aswan which is in the southern part of Egypt.
After analyzing more than 200 mummies and skeletons found in tomb no. 33, they have come to the conclusion that not even the chief governors lived in such good conditions as was thought up to now. Young adults between the ages of 17 and 25 were dying from malnutrition. Why were they starving? For a lot of ancients it was malnutrition. And for others it was parasites, worms in the stomach, usually caused by stepping on dirt infested with other people's feces and tracking it back into their homes, say some archaeologists working on other studies.
An incredibly high infant mortality rate due to hunger swept through Egypt in ancient times
The ancient Egyptians did not live in such good conditions and were not surrounded by such opulence as was thought up to now, but, rather, suffered from hunger and malnutrition, a whole range of infectious diseases and an extremely high infant mortality rate. Furthermore, the governors of Aswan, on the border with Sudan, as well as their families, interbred with the black peoples of the neighboring country.
These are some of the conclusions drawn from the Qubbet el-Hawa research project, carried out by the University of Jaen, in which anthropologists from the University of Granada have participated, as well as the Supreme Council of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
It involves excavating tomb no. 33 of the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis, right opposite the modern-day city of Aswan, about 1000 km. south of Cairo. The tomb was constructed during the 12th Dynasty (1939-1760 BC), to house the corpse of one of the region of Aswan’s leading dignitaries, whose identity is still unknown.
The site was later re-used at least three times (18th, 22nd and 27th Dynasties), is one of the largest in the necropolis and has a huge archaeological potential, since it houses at least one chamber that remains intact, containing three decorated wooden sarcophagi. The 18th dynasty has been said by some to have been ancient Egypt's "golden age."
More than 200 mummies found and examined for what caused so much starvation at young ages
Scientists from the UGR’s Laboratory of Physical Anthropology, the director of which is Prof. Miguel Botella Lopez, have just returned from Egypt. They have been taking part in the field work to carry out the anthropological analysis of the bones of the mummies unearthed in the excavation, as well as calculating the number of individuals belonging to the more recent occupations of the tomb (New Kingdom, 3rd Intermediate Period and Late Dynastic Period). The researchers have found over 200 skeletons and mummies in tomb no. 33.
The initial results of their work have led to some very interesting conclusions and have revealed new data not only about the ancient Egyptians physical characteristics, but also about the living conditions at that time. As Prof. Botella explains, in the March 6, 2013 news release, “Although the cultural level of the age was extraordinary, the anthropological analysis of the human remains reveals the population in general and the governors – the highest social class – lived in conditions in which their health was very precarious, on the edge of survival."
Life expectancy barely reached age 30
According to the UGR anthropologists interviewed in the March 6, 2013 news release,"Governors of Ancient Egypt suffered from malnutrition dying before they were 30 years old," life expectancy barely reached 30, “since they suffered from many problems of malnutrition and severe gastrointestinal disorders, due to drinking the polluted waters of the Nile.”
This is revealed by the fact that the bones of the children had no marks on them, “which demonstrates that they died from some serious infectious disease,” notes the news release. Furthermore, the researchers have unearthed in the tomb a large number of mummies belonging to young adults of between 17 and 25 years old.
First mention of the pygmies from ancient Egyptian journeys made to central Africa
Miguel Botella points out that the tombs of the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis contain inscriptions that are “of great historical importance, not only for Egypt, but for the whole of Humanity”. Thus, in the tomb of Governor Herjuf (2200 BC), the inscriptions describe the three journeys he made to central Africa, during one of which he brought back a pygmy. This is supposedly the oldest mention made of this ethnic group, the press release notes.
Other inscriptions tell of Egypt’s relations with the neighboring region of Nubia (present-day Sudan) over a period of almost 1000 years. For this reason, Qubbet el-Hawa is one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt, not only due to the discoveries already made, but also for the amount of information it contains about health and illness, and intercultural relations in ancient times.
For further information, check out the March 6, 2013 news release, "Governors of Ancient Egypt suffered from malnutrition dying before they were 30 years old."After analyzing more than 200 mummies and skeletons found in tomb no. 33, they have come to the conclusion that not even the chief governors lived in such good conditions as was thought up to now.