Egyptian Princess Needed Bypass Surgery, Mummy Study Shows

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The daughter of Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao II and the brother of Pharaoh Kamose, the Egyptian princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon lived in Thebes—now Luxor—between 1540 and 1550 B.C. When she died in her 40s, the royal mummy-to-be may have been suffering from heart disease so severe that today’s doctors would have performed bypass surgery. Her mummy was examined during a larger study that shed new light on the history of the heart condition known as atherosclerosis, suggesting that the disease may have been around much longer than previously thought.

This week, Ahmose-Meryet-Amon featured prominently in two presentations given at the International Conference of Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Imaging (ICNC) in Amsterdam. Both discussed the findings of a recent study that used non-invasive computerized tomography (CT) scans on 52 mummies—including the princess’—to determine whether ancient Egyptians suffered from atherosclerosis. This chronic condition, in which fatty deposits build up in the arteries and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, affects more people today than all forms of cancer combined.

Atherosclerosis has often been associated with unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles—risk factors believed to be more common in modern humans than in ancient peoples. For this reason, the researchers who scanned the mummies were surprised to discover that, out of the 44 with recognizable arteries, nearly half showed signs of arterial calcification, which indicates atherosclerosis....

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