According to recent research, the 15-year-old maiden Inca mummy had a lung infection before her sacrifice over 500 years ago.
In a report by the Huffington Post, the maiden mummy of a 15-year-old Incan girl who was sacrificed 500 years ago revealed the teenager suffered from a bacterial lung infection at the time of her death, scientists report Wednesday. Instead of analyzing her DNA, researchers analyzed tissue proteins from the Maiden and another young Inca mummy who died at the same time.
While DNA analyzing has led to many revelations regarding historical beings such as how King Tut died, DNA is not necessarily full proof as the environment can easily contaminate DNA samples and it does not always provide a definitive answer as to the cause of death.
Hence, researchers analyzed a sample’s proteins as they are less susceptible to environmental contamination and can provide an entirely different set of information. According to study researcher Angelique Corthals, a forensic anthropologist at the City University of New York, “Being the expression of DNA, proteins really show you what the body is producing at the time when the individual is being sampled — or, in our case, at the time of death.”
The study took lip swabs from two Andean Inca mummies; one mummy being a 7-year-old boy and the other being the 15-year-old maiden. Both mummies were originally found in 1999 on the summit of the Argentinian volcano Llullaillaco, 22,100 feet above sea level, after being sacrificed in a ceremonial ritual. Both individuals were fattened up before their sacrifice according to past research, where they were fed potatoes and other common vegetables up until a year before their sacrifice. The natural freezing temperature of the region and proper mummification preserved the bodies well enough for researchers to discover these important factors.
The original intention of the research was to discover the source of the blood found on the mummies lips and clothing according to Corthals, “What I really wanted to do originally was see where the blood I found on the mummies’ clothing and lips came from. But we found a whole lot more than we were expecting.”
The technique used to obtain the samples from the mummies is called shotgun proteomics, where researchers placed their samples into a device called a mass spectrometer, which broke all of the sample’s proteins into their constituent parts, amino-acid chains. Software then compares these parts with current existing proteins of the human genome to determine the actual proteins in the samples. They matched the maiden mummy’s sample with that of a chronic respiratory infection patient. To confirm the result, DNA analysis was used and researchers discovered evidence of bacteria in the genus Mycobacterium, which is known to cause upper respiratory-tract infections and tuberculosis.
Maiden Inca Mummy Had a Lung Infection Before Her Sacrifice.