Scientists have discovered a link between dental health and many typical cultural trends, thanks to the teeth of an ancient Egyptian mummy. Chemical analysis of the teeth has shown that the Nile Valley grew increasingly dry between 5,500 and 1,500 BC. Senior study author Christophe Lecuyer of the University of Lyon said that ‘Egyptian civilisation was remarkable in its long-term stability despite strong environmental pressure – increasing aridity – that most likely put constraints on the development of resources linked to agriculture and cattle breeding.’
The teeth also revealed that a crisis at the end of the Egyptian age may have been caused by dramatic droughts and coincided with the downfall of the country in 6th century BC, when it was conquered by Alexander the Great. However, Lecuyer went on to say that this did not account for all the changes in the waters levels throughout Egypt, which often lead to widespread famine.
The climate information was gathered from mummies that were part of various dynasties over the course of the countries enormous prosperity; the research team drilled small amounts of the enamel away and tested for oxygen and strontium isotopes. Shifts in the ratio of the isotopes indicate that changing precipitation patterns were found in the region – detailing what the people were eating and what was contained in their drinking water from the Nile. Lecuyer added; ‘One of the studies we plan to publish soon reveals there was no diet change over this long period of about four millennia.’