Detection of Nicotine and Cocaine in ancient human remains from different locations out of America and an archaeological period spans a range from 9000 BC to 700 AD.
Priv.Doz. Dr. Svetlana Balabanova
Human remains obtained from artificially and naturally mummified bodies fromancient Egypt as well as skeletal finds found in excavation sites in Europe, China, Jordan and Turkey were investigatedof nicotine and cocaine. The archaeological periods span a range of 9000 BC to 700 AD.
The samples were prepared and analysed by common analytical methods (radioimmunoassay and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry). Negative and positive controls for nicotine were provided from remains obtained post mortem of traffic accidents at autopsies of smokers and non-smokers. A negative control for cocaine was procured likewise post mortem at autopsies of traffic accidents. A positive control was provided from remains obtained post mortem of addicts at autopsies.
Positive nicotine results were found in dependence of regions and periods. In samples in age 11.000 to 10.500 years found in China, Jordan and Turkey nicotine was not detected. The results suggest that nicotiana plants were known and used since the antiquity. The plants have antiputrefactive and repulsive effects on insects and bacteria. Probably therefore, they were used at the embalming procedure. The nicotiana plants were used also ante mortem as stimulant and as a "domestical remedy" too, but not as a strong medicinal agent. The origin of the plants and nicotine could be native, however an import of both nicotiana plants and nicotine, can not be excluded.
Cocaine was demostrated only in naturally and artificially mummified bodies from Egypt. Its use may be related to the cocaine effects as tranquilizer and/or as stimulant. It is possible that cocaine was imported or have come from unknown Old World plants.
Further investigations may clarify the precise origin of both nicotine and cocaine.