Ancient diet shown through mummy’s hair

PERU — According to a new study, hair of 2,000-year-old mummies is helping researchers determine what ancient South Americans ate in the months before their deaths, Live Science reports.

A chemical analysis of the Peruvian mummies’ hair revealed they likely ate beans, corn and marine plants and animals.
The mummies were found in 1925 by Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello at two burial sites located in southern Peru.

The study’s lead researcher Kelly Knudson, an associate professor of anthropology at the Center for Bioarchaeological Research at Arizona State University, and her colleagues got hair samples from 14 people buried at the site and two artifacts made of human hair from museums in Peru and the U.S.

Knudson said that because human hair grows slowly, by looking at how far the hair is from the scalp, they were able to determine which foods were consumed in the few weeks before death. The researchers determined the diets by analyzing isotopes of carbon and nitrogen found in the hair.

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