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Drunken Mummies Let Down Their Hair

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Guest cutchemist

What does your hair say about your drinking habits?

Studies of ancient mummy hair has revealed that some at least were social drinkers Mummy hair has revealed the first direct evidence of alcohol consumption in ancient populations, an international conference has heard.

"It is well known that immediately following ingestion, ethanol can be measured in any body fluid, as well as the expired air in our breath. Detecting exposure to alcohol days, months, or even years later is a more difficult task. You need to find direct, long term biomarks," said Larry Cartmell, clinical laboratory director at the Valley View Hospital in Ada, Oklahoma.

The researchers decided to look into mummy hair following [glow=red,2,300]previous success in demonstrating cocaine and nicotine traces in the hair of other Andean mummies. [/glow] Indeed, many drugs or their metabolic products circulate in the blood and are absorbed and incorporated permanently into the growing hair shaft. Due to their hydrophobic nature, fatty acid ethyl esters - metabolic products of ethyl alcohol - accumulate significantly in the hair and there they remain for the life of the hair.

;DGas chromatography and mass spectrometry ;D showed that three out of the seven tested samples had quantifiable levels of fatty acid ethyl esters in both male and female subjects.

"In modern human hair the levels would generally be in the ranges of social drinking, but we obviously don't know how much, if any, was lost in 1000 years of burial. Basically, we can say that for the first time we have direct markers of alcohol use in ancient populations," Cartmell said.

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