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History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings
news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site.
From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History
Buff wants to know. And feel free to stop by History Buff's
Author Interviews for Q&As with authors of historical fiction. Enjoy!
historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the
past as it's unearthed and reimagined and brought to life. I spend a
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Lice from mummies provide clues to ancient migrations
When two pre-Columbian individuals died 1,000 years ago, arid conditions in the region of what is now Peru naturally mummified their bodies, down to the head lice in their long, braided hair.
This was all scientists needed, they reported Wednesday, to extract well-preserved louse DNA and establish that the parasites had accompanied their human hosts in the original peopling of the Americas, probably as early as 15,000 years ago. The DNA matched that of the most common type of louse known to exist worldwide, now and before European colonization of the New World.
The findings thus absolve Columbus of responsibility for at least one unintended tragic consequence to the well-being of the people he discovered and called Indians. The Europeans may have introduced diseases, most notably smallpox and measles, but not the most common of lice, as had been suspected.
Of possibly greater importance, evolutionary biologists say, the new research technique may become a tool in studying other mummies for valuable insights into human migrations and the spread of disease. Lice have been found on Egyptian mummies, for example, but these have yet to undergo genetic examination.