Microbial flora revealed the secret of the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh


The tomb of King Tutankhamun, elaborately painted walls are covered with dark brown spots that mar the face of the goddess Hathor, the silver-coated baboons and in fact, the entire surface. Despite nearly a century of research, the exact origin of these points was a mystery, but Harvard microbiologist Ralph Mitchell (Ralph Mitchell) thinks he is something to report.

No one knows why Tutankhamen, the famed "boy king" of the 18th Egyptian dynasty, died at such a young age. Various studies have attributed his early death head injury, infection with a broken leg, malaria, sickle cell anemia, or perhaps a combination of several diseases. But regardless of the cause of death of King Tut Mitchell thinks those brown spots reveal the following: the young pharaoh was buried in an unusual hurry, before the walls of the tomb had time to dry.

Like many ancient sites, the tomb of Tutankhamun is subject to time changes - dry, peel off the paint and cracking walls. With the oppressive heat and humidity, crowds gather in the cave and outside the cave, admiring the ancient monument, but at the same time, threatening him. Worried about keeping the grave, the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt requested the assistance of the Institute of Conservation of Monuments Foundation. Getty, United States. The employees of the Institute. Getty, in turn, has several questions to Mitchell.

What are these brown spots? And could the visit of tourists to make them worse? And most importantly, if they represent a risk to human health? Meanwhile, the Institut chemists. Getty analyzed the brown marks that have leaked into the paint and plaster, at the molecular level. While chemists identified melanins which are byproducts of fungal metabolism (and sometimes bacterial), but no living organisms, nevertheless, found to have no points.

Further, analysis of images recorded when grave was first discovered in 1922, showed that the brown spots did not change over the past 89 years. And, despite the fact that the identity of the ancient organism remains a mystery, their presence - that’s good news, both for tourists and for Egyptologists as the obvious fact that microbes are not only developing, but are actually part of the story, involving new twists to the circumstances of the death of King Tut.

This moisture, along with food, mummy and incense in the tomb, was the condition of abundant medium for microbial growth, according to a microbiologist, while grave, ultimately cured. Some similar research project may seem exotic, but in fact, such studies are characteristic of Mitchell’s in applied microbiology.

A relatively simple solution in this case would be the installation of the climate control. Unfortunately, there is a difference between the prevention and treatment. Once a historical artifact begins to deteriorate, the damage is usually irreversible. Mitchell cited the example of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany. Built more than 632 years and is known as a World Heritage Site UNESCO, the magnificent cathedral walls with angels and historical figures carved out of stone. But over the last 100 years, the face of the angels were eroded by air pollution.

"I always use the analogy of cancer," - said Mitchell. "If you have time to get rid of it in the early stages, it will not bring much damage the body." But what about the 3,000-year-old microbial vandalism in the tomb of King Tut? The damage has already been done, and Mitchell predicted that the employees of the organizations for the conservation of monuments, they want are likely to leave the point, especially because they are unique to this place. "This is - part of the whole mystery grave" - he concluded.

Original: Sciencedaily Translation: M. Potter

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