By RAND & ROSE FLEM-ATH
In the movie, Contact, Jodie Foster plays an astronomer who establishes
communication with a civilisation beyond our solar system. In a recent television
The Curse of the Cocaine Mummies, a different, but equally
is established between ancient Egypt and ancient Peru. A German forensic scientist busted
the Egyptian mummy Ramses II for possession of cocaine. Cocaine, as most people
grows only in the Andes. How did Ramses II get his dope?
The idea of ancient transoceanic contact between the
Old and New Worlds before Columbus (other than the Vikings) is simply not acceptable
within the tightly controlled halls of academia. Professor John Baines, an Egyptologist at
Oxford is a typical case. He calls the idea of ancient transoceanic trade
"absurd" and bolsters his "argument" by noting that he doesnt
know any professional Egyptologists, anthropologists or archaeologists who are
"seriously" researching the idea. This is because, he says, the idea is not
"perceived" to have "any real meaning for the subjects."
Professor Baines view reminds us of the
priests who refused to look through Galileos telescope to see the blemishes on the
Moon because this revelation did not conform to their preconceived ideas of reality.
Academia is geared to not looking at the problem. This ostrich approach has
predictable results: results that do not necessarily have any bearing upon the quest for
truth and in fact, impede the search.
The simple fact that we find sun-worshiping
civilisations building pyramids, obelisks and preserving their dead by wrapping them in
cloth (mummies) on both sides of the Atlantic is rarely even discussed within the
archaeological and anthropological journals despite the fact that every child when first
confronted with the facts raises the obvious question "why?" For four hundred of
the past five hundred years scholars have puzzled over the facts. Three theories emerged
yet only one survives today.
Cortess secretary was one of the first to put
forward the idea that both Old and New Worlds were remnants of an even older
"lost" civilisation. The "Aztlan" of ancient Mexico and the
"Atlantis" of ancient Egypt, he argued, were one and the same. With this simple
idea the commonalities between buildings, culture and mythologies of the ancient people of
Mexico, Peru and Egypt could all be explained as "echoes" of a lost world.
The second theory presented was the idea that Mexico
and Peru were settled by people from the Old World who already possessed the skills needed
to build pyramids and preserve bodies. Most argued that they came from ancient Egypt but
others suggest the Sumerians, people of ancient India, the Phoenicians and even the
Templars from France. Again, a simple idea was used to explain an obvious problem.
The third theory, was the idea of "separate
development." Here the focus is upon "how" people arrived in the Americas
rather than upon the impressions of the Europeans following Columbus
"discovery" of the New World. Although this is the more complicated of the
theories thus violating the scientific principle of Occums Razor (so
beautifully articulated in Contact) that when confronted by conflicting theories
for an unexplained phenomena one should prefer the simpler explanation, it is,
nevertheless, the only theory that is considered scholarly in todays universities.
It is within this context that we must watch The
Curse of the Cocaine Mummies. Cocaine and tobacco are plants that originated in
America and were unknown to the Old World if we are to believe the traditional paradigm.
The first tear in the fabric of the dogma came on the 16th of September 1976 when the
mummified remains of Ramses II arrived at the Museum of Mankind in Paris. To repair the
damage to the mummy, a scientific team was assembled which included Dr. Michelle Lescot of
the Natural History Museum (Paris). She received fragments from the bandages and found a
plant fragment ensnared within the fibres. When she looked at it under a microscope she
was amazed to discover that the plant was tobacco. Fearing that she had made some mistake
she repeated her tests again and again with the same result every time: a New World plant
had been found on an Old World mummy. The results, little known in North America, caused a
sensation in Europe.
Isk-ander, the Chief Curator at the
Cairo Museum thought he had an explanation. As an avid pipe smoker he argued that
"maybe a piece of tobacco dropped by haphazard" from the pipe of some forgotten
archaeologist. Dr. Lescot responded to this charge of "contamination" by
carefully extracting new samples from Ramses IIs abdomen, all the while having
others photograph the process. These samples which could not possibly be
"droppings" were then tested and once again were established to be tobacco.
The discovery of tobacco fragments in the mummified
body of Ramses II should have had a profound influence upon our whole understanding of the
relationship between ancient Egypt and America but this piece of evidence was simply
ignored. Then, sixteen years later, again quite by accident, more evidence emerged. In
1992, toxicologist, Dr. Svetla Balabanova of the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Ulm
(Germany) tested the ancient Egyptian mummified remains of Henut-Tawy, Lady of the Two
Lands. The results came as a "shock" to this scientist who regularly used the
identical testing methods to convict people of drug consumption. She had not expected to
find nicotine and cocaine in an ancient Egyptian mummy. She repeated the tests and sent
out fresh samples to three other labs. When the results came back positive she published a
paper with two other scientists. (Balabanova, S., F. Parsche and W. Pirsig, "First
Identification of Drugs in Egyptian Mummies", Naturwissenschaften 79, 358
(1992) Springer-Verlag 1992.)
If Balabanova was surprised by the results of her
tests she was even more surprised at the vitriolic response to her publication. She
received a flood of letters threatening, insulting and accusing her of fraud. When she
reminded her critics that she was simply applying the very same techniques that she had
used for years in police work where her results were considered "proof positive"
her critics didnt seem to care. She was condemned as a "fraud."
Dr. Rosalie David, Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester
Museum took up the challenge of investigating the "cocaine mummies" which she
thought "seemed quite impossible." She began by sending tissue and hair samples
from her museum out to labs. She was working on the dual assumption that one of two things
are true: 1. Balabanovas tests were compromised; or 2. The mummy was not truly
ancient" (i.e. it was fake). Dr. David flew to Munich to review the techniques and
excavation records to see if the body, which had originally been purchased by King Ludwig
I of Bavaria was genuine or not.
Dr. Alfred Grimm, the Curator of The Egyptian Museum
in Munich said that "the Munich mummies are real Egyptian mummies. No fakes. No
modern mummies. They came from ancient Egypt." After spending days pouring over the
docum-entation associated with the "cocaine mummy" Dr. David relented saying:
"it seems evident that they are probably genuine
When she returned to Manchester she discovered that
her own Museums mummies had traces of tobacco. Dr. David said: "Im really
very surprised at this."
Dr. Balabanovas work had been validated by the
test results from Manchester but she was now hooked on the problem and began collecting
samples of naturally preserved bodies housed in museums all around Europe. She obtained
134 separate bodies taken from ancient Sudan dating to a time long before Columbus or the
Vikings. One third of these bodies contained both nicotine and cocaine.
The exciting realisation that there was certainly
contact between ancient Peru and ancient Egypt has now been established. The cocaine
mummies from Egypt and Sudan have changed the rules of this controversial game. There is
no longer a warrant to exclude the hypothesis of transoceanic trade in ancient times.
Is the principle of Occums Razor only to be
applied when the outcome is safely assured to confirm to traditional dogma about theories
of the past? It appears so. The cocaine mummies jumped the tracks of long established
views. Despite overwhelming evidence we still find ourselves in the last decade of the
twentieth century dealing with a scientific establishment that ridicules its
own members and refuses to look at the results of its own principles if the results
dont confirm the favourite views of the reigning orthodoxy.
One step forward. Two back.
"Curse of the Cocaine Mummies" written and
directed by Sarah Marris. (Producers: Hilary Lawson, Maureen Lemire and narrated by Hilary
Kilberg). A TVF Production for Channel Four in association with the Discovery Channel,
and Rose Flem-Ath are the authors of When the Sky Fell: In Search
of Atlantis which puts forward the theory that Antarctica was
Atlantis before the earths crust shifted at 9,600 B.C. They
believe that Platos account of Atlantis is an accurate depiction
of the entire earths geography when seen from a radical southern
hemisphere perspective that puts Antarctica in the centre of the world.
The book was originally published in Canada in January 1995 and is
now available in ten languages. Their website is at: http://www.flem-ath.com