Hardening of the arteries is commonly associated with modern lifestyle choices, but newly-published research indicates that it affected people across the ancient world.

Full-body CT scans of 137 adult mummies from ancient Egypt, Peru, southwest America (Ancestral Puebloans of the Archaic and Basketmaker II cultures), and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska (Unangan people), revealed that over a third showed signs of atherosclerosis, or calcification in the walls of their arteries.

Of the individuals studied, probable or definite calcification was observed in 38% of ancient Egyptians, 25% of ancient Peruvians, 40% of Ancestral Puebloans, and 60% of Unangan hunter-gatherers.

 ‘The fact that we found similar levels of atherosclerosis in all of the different cultures we studied, all of whom had very different lifestyles and diets, suggests that atherosclerosis may have been far more common in the ancient world than previously thought,’ said Prof. Randall Thompson, co-author of the study, which was recently published in The Lancet.

All images copyright: The Lancet

Watch out for more information in CWA 58 – out at the end of March.

The mummy of Ahmose Meyret Amon (mummy 35), an Egyptian princess aged 40–45 years who lived about 1580–1550 BCE and was found near modern day Luxor.more
Mummy of Hatiay in scannermore
An Egyptian woman (mummy 38) aged 45–50 years, of unknown era from ancient Egypt, who was found in the Fayoum Oasis.more
The mummy of a woman from ancient Peru (mummy 101), aged 41–44 years, of the Early intermediate to Middle Horizon (200–900 CE), excavated from Huallamarca (near Lima), Peru.more
Coronary calcifications in the mummy of an Unangan woman (mummy 133) aged 47–51 years who lived in the late 19th century CE and was found on Kagamil Island of the Aleutian Islands.more
Coronary artery calcifications in the mummy of Ahmose Meyret Amon (mummy 35), an Egyptian princess aged 40–45 years who lived about 1580–1550 BCE and was found near modern day Luxor.more
Hatiay (mummy 23), a male Egyptian scribe aged 40–50 years, who lived during the New Kingdom (1570–1293 BCE) and was found near modern day Luxor. This CT image shows that he was suffering from carotid calcification.more
Aortic and iliac calcification in the mummy of an Egyptian woman (mummy 38) aged 45–50 years, of unknown era from ancient Egypt, who was found in the Fayoum Oasis.more
Aortic and iliac calcification in the mummy of a woman from ancient Peru (mummy 101), aged 41–44 years, of the Early intermediate to Middle Horizon (200–900 CE), excavated from Huallamarca (near Lima), Peru.more