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Ancient History

The Examination of a 2,200-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy Shows the Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle and Carb-Heavy Diet



2200-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy

The human race is basically divided between the movers and the sedentary. Even though there are those who both enjoy fitness and down time, there still remain those who predominantly do one or the other. But it seems that this is nothing new and we’ve been divided in this way for centuries. The difference is, it used to be only the wealthy that could afford to sit and enjoy comfort the majority of the time, but now, almost everyone, in the Western World that is, can choose the sedentary lifestyle if so desired. Jobs don’t always help with this problem either.

Exactly how many centuries have we been living sedentary lifestyles?

A 2,200-year-old Egyptian man sat around and ate carbs most of his lifetime, just like we do. How do we know this? That’s because a mummy is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem that attests to that fact. He’s called Alex, and he was a 5’6” Egyptian priest who was crippled by osteoporosis, due to obvious sedentary lifestyle. According to the Times of Israel, his mummy has shrunken to 5’ since he was unearthed and put on display.

The Times reports,

“A century before Anthony and Cleopatra, when the Ptolemies ruled the Nile, Alex ruled as a priest in the city Panopolis, modern-day Akhmim, in upper Egypt. During this lifetime, Alex was known as Iret-hor-iru, the Protective Eye of Horus-but got his modern moniker after he was donated to Jerusalem’s Pontifical Biblical Institute by Jesuits in Alexandria.”

What tests revealed

It’s believed that Alex was around 40 years old when he died in the second century BC. Through CT scans and radiocarbon dating of his body, scientists were able to determine not only his age but the actual effects of low activity during his lifetime. It’s hard to imagine the damage done to a human body aging without ample physical activity, but it’s been proven time and time again. The linens on the body also helped determine Alex’s age as well, this is where radiocarbon dating played the largest part. As for health, here is what the tests revealed:

CT scans showed tooth decay, lack of sun exposure, probably due to low vitamin D and many symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Such conclusive tests could be attributed to the embalming procedures that helped retain blood vessels, bones and much of the body’s skin.

But Alex wasn’t a rare case, it seems. In a 2011 study of Ancient Egyptian mummies, almost half of the 44 men and women preserved had clogged arteries. Not only that, mummies from around the world showed similar symptoms of cardiovascular disease, which was determined later in the year 2013. In fact, 137 men and women preserved were noted to have lived a sedentary lifestyle.

Authors of both these studies reported the same conclusions,

“Although commonly assumed to be a modern disease, the presence of atherosclerosis in pre-modern human beings raises the possibility of more basic predisposition to the disease.”

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

While looking at comments pertaining to this subject, I noticed something that made a lot of sense. It seems that society, as it gains in comfort, also increases in inactivity. I think what we can take away from this is such – we must not let our happiness breed sloth. We must keep in mind that despite our financial stability, we must keep moving. Our bodies were designed to move and with inactivity, we become subject to diseases.

We have learned this from our ancestors and now we are learning the hard way.

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