Cocaine and Mummies in Ancient Egypt

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A Mysterious and Unexplained Connection Between Continents

A toxicology report found trace amounts of cocaine in the mummified remains of a body buried thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, then known by the name Kamet. But cocaine 3000 years ago could only be found in Peru and some parts of the Andes… how could ancient Egyptians have acquired such a far away, distant, exotic item?cocaine mummy in egypt

Researchers established the presence of cocaine in the mummified corpses in Egypt and Sudan which date as far back to the time when Columbus landed in America. Was there an ancient trade transatlantic trade route between ancient Egypt and Peru…or…even more difficult to imagine…a Pacific trade route…meaning from the continent of Africa, south east towards India and moving past Indonesia  across the Pacific ocean till reaching the shores of Peru?

Some researchers suggest that the international narcotics trade might go back a lot further than we presently imagine. German scientists in the early 1990’s published several short papers claiming they’d found significant traces of cocaine, nicotine, and “hashish” in many Egyptian mummies, many of which were more than 3,000 years old.  However in pre-Columbian times tobacco and coca grew only in the Americas, and there was historically speaking no evidence of trade between the Old World and the New World.

Critics argues the mummies had to be fakes, or somehow exposed to cocaine in post-Columbian times, that the techniques used to analyze the mummies were incorrect or that old world alkaloids might have been misidentified as cocaine and tobacco. A British  TV studio made a documentary about the German’s work and paid particular attention to a forensic toxicologist by the name of Svetla Balabanova, who told interviewers she initially didn’t believe the results either, but had them re-checked by her lab in. She also found in the mummies traces of nicotine during hair tests.

In light of this finding mainstream archeology seems to be opposed to any more discussion on the matter of transoceanic trade in ancient times and has deemed it not worthy of investigation. The scientific response to pre-Columbian contact is usually dismissed as fringe science or psuedo-archeology.

This mysterious issue is a reminder of our tenuous grasp on the events of the past and that there might be much more to it than meets the eye.