Bloody Archaeology!

There are a couple if interesting stories this week. Both concern blood and archaeology.The first concerns Otzi the Iceman – a 5300 year old mummy found in the Alps. Researcher used atomic force microscopy and Raman spectroscopy to identify red blood cells from samples taken from wounds on Otzi’s right hand and left shoulder. The study also identified degraded remnants of a blood clot. The paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface is open access and available here.

The second item is even cooler.

Researcher at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History examined a numer of knives made by the Cantona culture (not a culture I am familiar with, you can go here for some basic information). The researchers used scanning electron microscopy to examine the knives and were able to identify red blood cells, collagen, tendon, and muscle fiber fragments. What makes this study cool is that they looked at the distribution of these elements on the knives. From PhysOrg:

For example, some knives in the test had more traces of red blood cells, while others had more skin, and others more muscle or collagen, “which suggest that each cutting tool was used for a different purpose, according to its form,” Mainou said.

Gillespie said the find also suggested the intriguing possibility that the sacrificial knives were ritually deposited, unwashed, in some special site after being used.

The PhysOrg article doesn’t mention any research papers, but if there is one forthcoming it will make a fascinating read.

2 Responses

  1. What kind of sacrifice? Aztec-style?

    (On that subject, has there been credible investigation as to what became of all the meat from human sacrifices? – Ecologically, it had to be utilised somehow, and I bet it wasn’t only used to consume firewood, breed flies or fatten pigs or axolotls. I am aware that by long tradition, almost all literature on cannibalism is worthless and ideology-based, a war of denialism vs. credulism…)

  2. I haven’t been able to track down a paper originating from this yet, but that is the way it sounds…

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