Alison Abbott considers an extraordinary assemblage of human remains: some rediscovered, some re-analysed. Mummies: Secrets of Life is built around the science that has been applied to the mummies, and what it has revealed about long-forgotten lives and deaths

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An infection that probably killed a young Norwegian woman some 800 years ago is helping scientists to chart the evolutionary history of an important group of disease-causing bacteria.

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Cranial surgery without modern anesthesia and antibiotics may sound like a death sentence. But trepanation—the act of drilling, cutting, or scraping a hole in the skull for medical reasons—was practiced for thousands of years from ancient Greece to pre-Columbian Peru

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Humans have been drilling holes into each others’ heads for thousands of years, and, surprisingly, we’ve actually been pretty good at it, even way back when. A re-analysis of a 5,000-year-old cow’s skull suggests humans were performing cranial surgery on animals as well—but why would they even bother?

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It’s a microscopic case of mistaken identity. A new study published in PLOS Pathogens has found that a 16th-century mummified child may have actually been infected by an ancient strain of hepatitis B, not smallpox as scientists believed for decades

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Dental Detectives

October 25, 2016

What fossil teeth reveal about ancestral human diets. When scientists want to know what our ancient ancestors ate, they can look at a few things: fossilized animal bones with marks from tools used to butcher and cut them; fossilized poop; and teeth

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“There are babies, there are young children, there are teenagers, there are adults, men, women, elderly people,” Ms. Abadie said on a recent afternoon at an Inrap warehouse in La Courneuve, a suburb on the northern outskirts of Paris, where the skeletal remains are now housed. “This was a mortality crisis, that much is clear,”

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TB patients usually report a single strain of tuberculosis per patient. By contrast, five of the eight bodies in our study yielded more than one type of tuberculosis — remarkably from one individual we obtained evidence of three distinct strains,” one researcher said

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