Mummy Hair Points to a Low-Stress Life in Ancient South America
By Matías Loewy

Several anthropological studies show that, just like other pre-Hispanic natives, those who inhabited the desert in northern Chile faced periods of food shortages, severe weather conditions, crippling diseases and violence. However, a new analysis of a stress hormone in hair samples from 19 mummies of people who lived between 500 and 1,500 years ago suggests that perhaps not all of them had as stressful an existence as previously thought.

This interpretation “is different from what had been assumed so far,” says Hermann Niemeyer, head of the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Chile, and one of the authors of the study. Niemeyer and his colleagues took hair samples from 19 mummies of San Pedro de Atacama, five of them from the Middle Period (400 to 1000 AD) and the rest from the Late Intermediate Period (1000 to 1400 AD), and measured the capillary concentration of cortisol, a hormone released in response to real or perceived threats.

Because hair grows on average one centimeter per month, the analysis functions as an indicator of the stress experienced during the natives’ last months of life—and may be an invaluable window into the emotional life of the remote past. Although it is impossible to rule out some degree of degradation caused by decomposition, Niemeyer says the mummies’ hair and other organic remains are extremely well preserved because of the arid San Pedro de Atacama atmosphere. “And cortisol itself is a fairly stable molecule,” he adds.

Researchers also measured the concentration of cortisol in the hair of 19 healthy, non-obese living residents of Santiago de Chile, ranging from 23 to 55 years old. The results were surprising: Cortisol levels proved to be similar in modern and in prehistoric samples. “While the environmental, technological and health conditions in ancient times could be considered restrictive in relation to the conditions of life today, apparently they did not alter the levels of systemic stress of these populations,” the authors wrote in Chungará, a Chilean anthropology magazine. Details of the new work were also presented in April at the 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Atlanta.

The finding contradicts previous studies. Applying a similar methodology in 2009, a team of researchers led by Emily Webb, then at the University of Western Ontario, found that mummies from different places in Peru presented very high stress levels. The team attributed this to food shortages, droughts, interpersonal conflicts and other threats to life. Researchers now assume that—despite all odds—the ancient inhabitants of the Atacama were well adapted to the conditions of the local environment, since human occupation in the area went on for thousands of years.

But this assumption of a low-stress life for the remote Atacama people should not necessarily be extrapolated to the experience of other pre-Hispanic natives. “The diversity of environments and cultural processes along the Andes is so heterogeneous that we must be cautious in expanding our findings to other prehistoric societies in our continent,” warns the study’s lead author, physical anthropologist Rocio Lopez Barrales from the University of Chile. He is currently researching at the Department of Anthropology at Ohio State University.

The application of new techniques, such as the measurement of cortisol in mummies’ hair, "is interesting for providing information on specific aspects,” says Lourdes Marquez Morfin, a bioarchaeologist at the National School of Anthropology and (ENAH) in Mexico, who specializes in society and health in ancient populations and was not involved in the new research. However, she adds that the interpretation in the Atacama study could have been more solid if it had considered a larger number of variables and health indicators.

before you run away from me: a junpei/akane playlist - for the boy who couldn’t stop chasing schrodinger’s girl

spans from the ending of 999 to ztd’s true ending. cover art by @driftwoodwolf. songs, lyrics, and liner notes under the cut

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My sister Danita Bigeagle became missing from Regina,SK since Feb 2007 and since then I have been searching & raising awareness thru my FB page called Saskatchewan Missing, MMIW round dance and thru travel with missing person posters. I have used my own funds and now I need help to continue the s...

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“ανανα’σαι καλα” i srsly love u

  • ok so let’s start off w the fact that greek has two different symbols for ‘s’!!!!! they both sound the same, there is literally Nothing different about them save for the fact that the one “σ” which is the standard s, is used ANYWHERE except for the end of a word. If the word ends in an ‘s’, you gotta use ‘ς’
  • the word for pineapple in greek is “ανανάς” (ananas, yes, that IS the greek n) (i omitted the use of accents in my tags bc??????? literally no one uses accents when texting in greek? ?? ? ok that’s a lie some ppl do but they’re weird ppl that i don’t associate w jk i love you all pls use ur accents)
  • as u can see, the tag’s use of ananas ends w the standard σ and not the terminal ς, which brings me to my next point!!!
  • sometimes when the word “είμαι” (i am) is prefaced by θα or να (i will or to), it’s written and pronounced as a contraction (like don’t, can’t, won’t)
  • να’σαι is the contracted form of να εισαι which literally means “(to) be” but it ACTUALLY means “be”, addressing YOU (singular), and it’s in imperative, which means it gives a direct order
  • TL;DR: ‘να’σαι καλα’ means ‘be well’, but it’s used in greek very often, sometimes sarcastically, often literally, and it basically is another way to say thank you. So if you’re, say, searching for ur lighter and someone gives u theirs instead, you could say ‘ευχαριστω’ or, if u r more slang-inclined or the person is closer to you, you could say ‘να’σαι καλα’
  • in a way it implies gratitude, relief, and is actually a really memey phrase i really can’t describe it well
  • i basically suck at explaining but yeah that tag was literally a portmanteau of pineapple and a form of thank you bc it was long overdue other ppl started tagging u in pineapple posts!!!!! u r clearly the pineapple queen <3

Titty cactus (Myrtillocactus geometrizans ‘Fukurokuryuzinboku’), buffalo gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima), and Illinois bundleflower seeds (Desmanthus illinoensis). You can see the old sunburn marks on titty cactus - they go up as high as the plant was tall last year. I haven’t been paying much attention to it recently, but apparently it’s been growing like a weed and is about to outgrow the shelf. Maybe it’s etiolated, but like… how can you tell. Why did they even bother grafting it, tbh.

Otherwise, things are pretty dull. The heat of July and August knocks most of my non-arid adapted plants into semi-dormancy, or at least makes them really unhappy, and everything is covered in spider mites, so many spider mites, and I haven’t found the will to do anything about them yet. I have some cacti in bud, and the zygopetalum hybrid is still holding on to its protoflowers, so I’m looking forward to that. I have one little hibiscus that keeps gamely making buds, but they get fried before they can open. ‘Fiji Island’ and ‘Rose Queen’ are blooming steadily, but that’s about it.

We are allegedly getting a cold front later this week that will knock us back to mere double digit highs and maybe even bring some rain, so let’s keep our fingers crossed!

little notice to new followers

there has been a spike in blogs following me for some reason, but. a huge chunk of you, while your blogs seem great, i’m not following back.

because i see you roleplaying with muses that are whitewashed. 

please pay attention. dont be an asshole. dont support white-washing. dont roleplay with them.

thanks lol

             “If there’s something I’ve really missed about home it has to be this,” Amelia said with a bright smile and took another bite of her roasted marshmallow. She had only just returned from her two-week vacation the night before, but she had long since unpacked and settled back in again. “You want another one? There’s an entire bag over there.”