The Italian Almanac

Egyptian mummy

Italian Science - November 21

Italian researchers have found a pig-related disease in a mummy, squashing a common belief that Ancient Egyptians had a dietary ban on pork. Until now historians have found evidence suggesting ancient high priests in Egypt prohibited pig meat, in common with many Middle Eastern peoples who still don't eat pork today. "It has hitherto been thought that there was a sort of religious-hygienic ban on eating pork in Ancient Egypt," said Pisa University historical pathologist Fabrizio Bruschi.

The researchers recently found the oldest recorded case of a rare disease called cystercosis in the belly of a second-century BC mummy. Cystercosis, which can spark dangerous mood swings and epilepsy, is caused by an intestinal parasite contained in raw or poorly cooked pork. It can also get into the body from fruit and vegetables that have been contaminated with pig faeces. Cystercosis, which has only recently been recognized and is very uncommon in the industrialised world, strikes the human nervous system.

The Italian discovery is set for publication in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.