Background: Evidence of atherosclerotic plaques in ancient populations has led to the reconsideration of risk factors for heart disease and of the common belief that it is a disease of modern times.
Methods: Fifty-one wrapped mummy bundles excavated from the sites of Huallamarca, Pedreros, and Rinconada La Molina from the Puruchuco Museum collection in Lima, Peru, were scanned using computed tomography to investigate the presence of atherosclerosis. Funerary artifacts contained within the undisturbed mummy bundles were analyzed as an attempt to infer the social status of the individuals to correlate social status with evidence of heart disease in this ancient Peruvian group. This work also provides an inventory of the museum mummy collection to guide and facilitate future research.
Results: Statistical analysis concluded that there is little association between the types of grave goods contained within the bundles when the groups are pooled together. However, some patterns of artifact type, material, atherosclerosis, and sex emerge when the 3 excavation sites are analyzed separately.
Conclusions: From the current sample, it would seem that social class is difficult to discern, but those from Huallamarca have the most markers of elite status. We had hypothesized that higher-status individuals may have had lifestyles that would place them at a higher risk for atherogenesis. There seems to be some indication of this within the site of Huallamarca, but it is inconclusive in the other 2 archeological sites. It is possible that a larger sample size in the future could reveal more statistically significant results.
Sutherland, M. L., Cox, S. L., Lombardi, G. P., et al. (2014). Funerary artifacts, social status, and atherosclerosis in ancient peruvian mummy bundles. Global Heart, 9(2), 219-228. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gheart.2014.04.004
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