The earliest proof of mercury poisoning has been present in 5,000-year-old bones of people buried in Spain and Portugal, based on a brand new research.
Publicity to the naturally occurring heavy metallic might have poisonous results on the physique together with on the nervous, digestive, and immune techniques, based on The World Well being Group (WHO). That is why the WHO considers mercury one of many high 10 chemical substances of “main well being concern.”
At present, persons are mostly uncovered to some degree of mercury after they eat sure fish or shellfish, although the degrees are sometimes low, based on the WHO. However how frequent was mercury publicity within the olden days?
To determine this out, the researchers analyzed human bones collected from 23 completely different archaeological websites, which included pits and caves, throughout Spain and Portugal. The bones belonged to 370 people who lived in numerous time durations throughout a span of 5,000 years.
Evaluation of among the bones, primarily the humerus, the arm bone between the shoulder and the elbow, revealed unusually excessive ranges of mercury, ranges that will not have been brought on by food plan or by decomposition after dying.
The researchers detected mercury ranges of as much as 400 elements per million in among the stays, which is far larger than the 1 or 2 ppm that the WHO deems regular ranges in human hair, based on a press release.
The researchers say the unusually excessive ranges of mercury had been doubtless brought on by publicity to cinnabar, a poisonous mercury sulfide mineral that, when floor right into a superb powder, has a vivid crimson shade and has been traditionally used to provide paint pigments, based on the assertion. In actual fact, one of many largest cinnabar mines on the earth is in Almadén, Spain.
Folks began exploiting Almadén’s cinnabar trove within the Neolithic interval, round 7,000 years in the past, based on the assertion. The very best ranges of mercury had been within the stays that dated again to round 2900 BCE to 2300 BCE, or the late Neolithic to the center Copper Age (which was a transition between the Neolithic and Bronze Age).
Presently, cinnabar had develop into a extremely symbolic, most likely sacred substance, “which was wanted, traded and extensively utilized in quite a lot of rituals and social practices,” the authors wrote within the research, printed Oct. 13 within the Worldwide Journal of Osteoarchaeology.
In tombs courting again to this time interval present in southern Portugal and Andalusia, cinnabar powder was used to color chambers, enhance collectible figurines, and even unfold over the useless. It is attainable that folks may have by accident, or intentionally for causes associated to rituals, inhaled or consumed massive quantities of mercury-filled cinnabar, based on the assertion.
By the tip of the Copper Age and begin of the Bronze Age, or round 2200 BCE, the usage of cinnabar decreased considerably, based on the research.
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