Symptoms of atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of the arteries, have been detected in the mummified remains of four Inuit adults who lived in Greenland about 500 years ago. The recent study used computerized tomography to examine the bodies of the two men, who are thought to have been between 18 and 22 and 25 and 30 at the time of death, and two women, who died sometime between the ages of 16 and 18 and 25 and 30, and one infant. Three of the four adults showed evidence of arterial calcification. Increased gunk in arteries can lead to life-threatening conditions such as strokes and heart attacks.
These Inuit’s atherosclerosis is a surprising find because current health theories suggest that a diet rich in marine foods and omega-3 fatty acids, such as that eaten by preindustrial-era Inuit peoples, would offer protection from arterial calcification. The individuals’ entire circulatory systems were not preserved, however, so the researchers were not able to determine the full extent of the damage to their arteries. The scientists also noted that heavy exposure to smoke from indoor fires may have outweighed the heart-health benefits of an active lifestyle and fatty-fish-based diet.
About 5,000 years ago, on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, wild boars were enjoying an unusual diet. Isotope analyses of wild board remains revealed that they were eating fish and other marine animals. The only way they could have gotten access to such food, researchers think, is if humans were deliberately feeding the boars seafood.
Why would they do that? Perhaps they used marine resources to domesticate the boars, a useful source of meat if they can be made tamer. Note that 5,000 years ago is before the agricultural revolution reached Denmark. So the locals were attempting animal domestication before they had adopted domesticated plants.
Wine barrels, which were used as latrines in the late 1680s, have been discovered in central Copenhagen. Analyzing them can provide detailed insights into what Danes at the time were eating and drinking, as well as evidence about health problems they may have been experiencing.
Using a variety of modern techniques, archaeologists have identified a number of local foods including fish, meats, a number of grains, cherries, coriander, lettuce, mustard, and hazelnuts. Put together, the scientific evidence suggests that Danes were eating a varied and healthy diet of local products. And the owners of the latrines were likely wealthy, able to take advantage of of a global trading network, as evidenced by their cloves from India’s Moluccan islands, and figs, grapes, and bitter orange or lemon from the Mediterranean.
Unfortunately, their hygiene could have been better. The latrines contained evidence of whipworm, roundworm, and tapeworm, and specifically of varieties that are known to infect people. Either the owners did not wash their hands often enough, or they did not cook their food properly. The natural result was parasites.
Hans Christian Anderson, the children’s author, had a typical fear for the Victorian era. He was very afraid of being buried alive. To make sure no one mistook his sleeping body for a dead body, Anderson slept with a note on his bedside table that read “I only appear to be dead.”
History does not record if anyone ever read the note.
Danish biologist, botanist, and geneticist Wilhelm Johannsen (1857 – 1927) coined the term “genes” in 1911. He also coined the term “genotype” and “phenotype” which you may remember from high school biology class!
A multi-beam echo sounding technique has been used to locate the infamous Nazi submarine U-3523 in the Skagerrak Strait between Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. The U-3523 was technologically advanced for its time. If it survived, the sub could have revolutionized naval warfare because it could cruise for prolonged distances without needing to resurface. It was sunk on May 6, 1945, by a British aircraft.
After World War II was over, rumors began that the U-3523 had been fleeing Germany, carrying high-ranking Nazis and a cargo of Nazi gold. The wreck is being treated as a war grave and will not be disturbed. So who or what the U-3523 was carrying on its last voyage will remain a mystery.