Top Ten Historical Health and Medical Discoveries of 2015
There is much more to archaeology than just learning about our past. The study of the ancient world has also led to astounding discoveries that may have real utility in the modern day. As well as discoveries that have revealed that ancient peoples were more advanced than previously realized with regards to health and medical care, scientists believe that some of their knowledge may even provide life-saving benefits today. Here we examine ten amazing health and medical discoveries of 2015.
CT scanners were used on the plaster casts of the Mount Vesuvius victims from Pompeii. Preliminary results showed that, in general, they had great teeth and were in remarkably good health before the volcanic eruption. This new discovery goes against the commonly held belief that Romans were often hedonists that enjoyed consuming in excess whenever possible.
Especially surprising for the scientists is that the ancient Pompeiians had great dental records, despite the poor dental care available in 79 AD. “They ate better than we did and have really good teeth.” Elisa Vanacore, a dental expert, said in a press release. The Pompeiians ate a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugars.
30 of the 86 Pompeiian plaster casts have passed through the scanning process so far. The results are providing more details on the lives of the individuals found from the site. “It will reveal much about the victims: their age, sex, what they ate, what diseases they had and what class of society they belonged to. This will be a great step forward in our knowledge of antiquity.” Massimo Osanna, the archaeological superintendent of Pompeii, said.
The Vikings are famous for their great feasting halls, in which an image of a rowdy bunch of beer-drinking men gnawing on meaty bones comes to mind. But what did they really consume besides beer and mead in their dining rooms? New research revealed they had a rich and varied diet, and ate better than their medieval counterparts in Britain.
The Vikings apparently didn’t roast or fry their meat but rather boiled it. Some of the meat was game, but especially in the lower latitudes they ate domesticated cattle, horses, sheep and goats and pork. They kept ducks, geese and chickens for meat and eggs. In the northlands, the Vikings hunted elk, deer, reindeer, bear, boar, squirrels, hare and wildfowl more than their southern cousins.
Vikings fished the Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea for cod, haddock, herring, mackerel and other fish. They hunted seals and porpoises but usually ate beached whales instead of hunting them.
Dairy, vegetables and fruits, which were much wilder then than now; and seeds for oil were a big part of the Viking diet. They ate various types of berries, apples, sloes and plums and preserved them by drying them. They grew and gathered vegetables such as carrots, turnips, parsnips, spinach, celery, cabbage, fava beans, peas and radishes.
While they ate oats, barley and rye and made flatbread from the barley, most of it was used to make beer.
Scientists decoded the DNA of a bacteria found thriving in ancient permafrost, and are now seeking to understand the genes which provide its extraordinary longevity. Work has also been underway to study a so far unexplained positive impact on living organisms, notably human blood cells, mice, fruit flies, and crops.
The bacteria were originally found on Mamontova Gora - Mammoth Mountain - in Siberia's Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, in 2009 by Dr Anatoli Brouchkov, head of the Geocryology Department, Moscow State University. Similar bacteria were discovered by Siberian scientist Vladimir Repin in the brain of an extinct woolly mammoth preserved by permafrost.
'We did a lot of experiments on mice and fruit flies and we saw the sustainable impact of our bacteria on their longevity and fertility,' said Dr Brouchkov. 'But we do not know yet exactly how it works. In fact, we do not know exactly how aspirin works, for example, but it does. The same is true here: we cannot understand the mechanism, but we see the impact.'
Describing the discoveries as a 'scientific sensation' and an 'elixir of life', Yakutsk epidemiologist Dr Viktor Chernyavsky said: 'The bacteria gives out biologically active substances throughout its life, which activates the immune status of experimental animals.' As a result, 'mice grannies not only began to dance, but also produced offspring'.