Deciphering the mystery of the ancients

The last Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, who was named after Yan Yan, committed suicide in August 30, BC, at the age of 39. Earlier, her lover, Roman leader Anthony committed suicide after losing a battle. According to a legend in the past two thousand years, Cleopatra deliberately let an African belly snake bite himself.

But the German archaeologist Schaefer does not agree with this legend. He found a 200-year account of the Roman historian Cassius after the death of Cleopatra, which said that the Cleopatra died calmly and without pain. Schafer’s collaborator, German toxicologist Mebose, pointed out that the feeling of being bitten by a African belly snake would be very uncomfortable, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory failure. Death may occur within 45 minutes of being bitten, but it may take longer to die and there is painful edema in the bite. In the end, the look of the body will be ugly. This obviously does not coincide with the death of Cleopatra recorded by Cassius.

However, historical data also records that two of the close-knit maids of Cleopatra went to Huangquan with her. Schaefer is still difficult to agree, saying: If Cleopatra died of a snake wound, this is even more impossible. In August, when Cleopatra died, the temperature in Egypt was very high. It was impossible for the snake to stay there quietly, and then bite according to the “demand.” According to Mebose, the main problem is that the consequences of snake bites are difficult to predict, because snake venom is highly variable, and the amount of poison can be high or low, which means that the result after being bitten by a snake is uncontrollable. Cleopatra should know this, so she is unlikely to take the risk: let the snake bite herself, and then die can be very ugly and very uncomfortable.

In order to investigate the cause of death in Cleopatra, Schaefer and Mebos traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, to access ancient medical literature. They found that the literature showed that ancient Egyptians were familiar with a variety of poisons, and that a plant poison mentioned in the literature was not only convenient for suicide, but also very effective and highly predictable. There is even a document that says that Cleopatra has personally monitored the effects of poisons. Schafer and Mebos believe that the poison used in the suicide of Cleopatra is a mixture of opium, aconite and poison. The poisonous celery is very toxic, and it is said that the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was also poisoned by it. Schafer said that in the era of Cleopatra, the effect of this poison “cocktail” was known: within a few hours, the drug addict will die without pain.

It is said that there are historical records, imitating others, Cleopatra has done many poison experiments. In her search for a painless way of dying, she may have observed many prisoners being killed by a combination of poisons (including snake bites). American scientist Mayo guessed that Cleopatra was likely to take a high dose of opium to calm down, then let the snake bite himself and die within half an hour after being bitten. During the death, Cleopatra will not feel the pain, and the snake venom will gradually block her breathing.

American pharmacy expert Tuvald pointed out that the poison formula discovered by Schafer and others is technically very effective and is a unique poisonous “cocktail”. Among them, opium and poisonous celery can alleviate the gastrointestinal symptoms caused by the poisonous aconite, thus contributing to painless death. But Tuvald also pointed out that the use of botanical poisons in the Cleopatra era is not common. Tuvald also said that there are many legends and speculations about Cleopatra. For example, it is often said that she wrote articles about poisons, beauty products and drugs. It is said that Cleopatra has even conducted several poison experiments. In her search for a painless way of dying, she may have observed many prisoners being killed by a combination of poisons (including snake bites). But the final answer has not yet been revealed. Finding her mummy and conducting forensic testing is the only way to solve the mystery of her death.

Wang family close relatives
Historical data shows that the marriage of close relatives in the ancient Egyptian royal family is common. Pharaoh (the king) believes that he is a descendant of God, so in order to ensure the purity of the royal family, you need a close marriage. However, it is difficult to confirm the marriage of the close relatives of the royal family through genetic testing, because of ethical considerations – it is best not to destroy the mummy tissue to extract DNA samples.

In 2015, scientists used a highly heritable feature, height, to find evidence of marriage between 259 ancient Egyptian royals and non-royal mummies. By comparing the heights of members of the royal family and non-royal members, the scientists found that the male Pharaoh’s height difference was less than that of the non-romantic males. The male pharaohs were taller than the non-romantic men at the same time, but the height of the queen and the ancient Egyptian ordinary women was almost the same.

During the New Kingdom of Egypt (circa 1550 BC – 1070 BC), the average height of men was 169.6 cm. In the early days of the ancient Egyptian dynasty (2925 BC – 2575 BC), the average height of men was 161 cm. The average height of men in ancient Egypt was 165.7 cm and that of women was 157.8 cm. Overall, the average height of male pharaohs is stable at 166 cm, and the height change is significantly smaller than that of non-romantic men. The average height of the queen and the princess is 156.7 cm. Among the respondents, the highest pharaoh was Ramses II (circa 1303 BC – 1212 BC), and his height was 173 cm. His queen’s height was also outstanding at the time, reaching 165 cm, higher than the average height of men in the New Kingdom. The study also confirmed that the close relatives of the 17th and 18th dynasties in ancient Egypt were the most serious. Among them, Amenhotep I, 165 cm tall, is likely to be the product of three generations of close relatives. The young Pharaoh Tutankhamun, who died young, is also a descendant of many generations of close relatives.

Scientists have similar results in the study of 5 to 14-year-old boys and girls in Guatemala. The differences in height between children in extremely wealthy and extremely poor families are small, suggesting that the children’s living environment is also very different. In other words, the rich children do not deviate from the superior situation, and the poor children can not escape the embarrassing situation, which is obviously extremely unfavorable to the latter. Those in middle-income are living in a more variable environment and are more mobile. Scientists pointed out that the difference in average height and height is one of the good indicators for predicting the quality of the living environment of the ancients. Judging from this, the extremely superior environment of the male men may be one of the reasons for their small differences in height, and it also shows that the royal family does have a close marriage.

Queen’s lungs
In 1959, at the Church of St. Denis in Paris, France, archaeologists discovered the remains of a queen of the Merovingian dynasty, Yanni Gund (approximately 515-580 AD) (above). Also found along with Yanigende’s skeleton, her jewelry, costume fragments and a strand of hair. But even more striking is that archaeologists have also discovered the lungs of Yanni Gund. Although her body has completely become a skeleton, her lungs have been completely preserved. Since the discovery of Yanni Gand’s lungs, scientists have been wondering if her lungs were deliberately or naturally preserved. Until recently, the mystery was revealed. An international scientific team tested Yanigend’s lungs and confirmed that her body was originally deliberately made into a mummy (dry body). Through biochemical tests, scientists found traces of copper oxide and benzoic acid in the lungs of Yanigende. Benzoic acid is usually present in plants. At the time of the burial, Yanigende’s body was tied with a copper belt (pictured right). Copper with anti-corrosion properties is often used to make jewelry. Scientists speculate that Yanni Gund was being injected with perfume liquid or aromatic plant liquid from the mouth. The anti-corrosion properties of copper combined with the preservation of spices may be the reason why Yanigende’s lungs are completely preserved. In the 6th century AD, the practice of using aromatic plants and spices to treat dead bodies was popular in France. The Merovingans learned this technique from the Romans, and the Romans learned this anti-corrosion from the Egyptians. But unlike the Egyptians, the corpse antiseptic used by Merovian is slightly rough. This may explain why only the lungs of Yanigende are completely preserved, but the rest of the body is not.