My Most Interesting Patient ... an Inca Indian Mummy!

By William Risley, DC
Before anyone suggests that I personally took care of this patient and am old enough to have done so, please let me quickly add that he was not examined in my office. Let me explain.

Some time ago, the University of Arizona in Tucson procured an Inca Indian mummy that was dated to a probable existence of 800 A.D., some 1,200 years old. Analytical Research Laboratories, at which I spend interesting hours each week, managed to acquire a hair specimen from the mummy. You can imagine the keen interest in possibly analyzing this specimen. Hair mineral analyses have been performed on individuals that died as long ago as the fourth century A.D. Of more recent interest are hair mineral assays done on royalty of medieval times. Traditions established in England included monarchs bequeathing a lock of hair to favored persons. These treasures have been passed on through subsequent generations, and recently some have been analyzed with modern scientific instruments. The results are indeed interesting.

According to Lenihan, in his text The Crumbs of Creation,1 the long-dead king Charles II, who reigned in England about 1685, recently had his head hair analyzed. A descendant of one of the king's subjects passed down a hair sample of the dead king. Lenihan reports that the king had his own personal chemical laboratory, likely the state of the art for the 16th century, so that he joined with other alchemists of the day in attempting to create gold from elements such as lead. The process commonly used probably included a vat of heated mercury. Theory suggests that continued exposure to heated mercury and its vapors then resulted in mercury poisoning in the hapless monarch. Hair biopsy did indeed demonstrate elevated levels of mercury. The medical history of this particular monarch pointed strongly to death by kidney failure, a common result of mercury toxicity.

It was established by the university that our Inca Indian subject was likely a 10-12 year-old male child that had perished as a result of some traumatic episode. It was a significant surprise to find various levels of toxic metals in the hair of this Indian. Levels of aluminum, lead and cadmium were many times higher than levels currently accepted as safe by "government standards." "Close enough for government work," however, is not appropriate when dealing with toxic metals. The mummy's levels of these minerals were clearly in excess of the most conservative acceptable standards. Finding similar toxic metal levels in a patient of the 20th century portends of significant symptoms and pathology. The determined levels in mg% were as follows:


This finding in a resident of the eighth century A.D. poses some interesting questions. Where in the world did he get this toxic burden? We can assume that he did not eat what we would consider to be junk food. His neighborhood certainly did not include a plant spewing toxic waste into the air and water supply. In fact, his water and air were likely as pure as it has ever been. We should be so lucky.

He certainly did not get into the family station wagon and go down to the Circle K for a six pack of beer in aluminum cans and two Twinkies. I doubt that he drank bottled water. He also did not likely have aluminum or copper cookware. Whether he had cookware of any kind is the real question. An aluminum based anti-perspirant was probably not fashionable either, nor were aluminum-containing antacids.

Lenihan, in the above cited text, states that modern man adds about 6,500 tons of mercury to the environment each year by industrial processes. He then states the total amount of mercury in the environment exceeds 400 million tons. This disparity between man's addition and what is already polluting our world is probably the reason for the scientific attitude that minimal added pollutants are inconsequential. There is already so much around us, as well as in us, that in theory, "The small additional amounts of pollutants added by civilized man must surely be virtually and/or practically meaningless."

At first glance, there would appear to be some logic in these arguments, but there are definite additional considerations that must be addressed. With our cooperative Inca Indian, we have a human specimen who is 1,200 years old and not subject to modern day forms of pollution. He does display, however, a significant bodily burden of the heavy metals we know to be so deadly. Andrew Weil, MD, well known in the holistic medicine movement, states that "Medicine's concept of disease coming from the outside, has led this country to the edge of bankruptcy."2 Truer words were never spoken and perhaps that statement reveals an answer to the posed dilemma.

Modern medicine indicts an intake of saturated fat as the major causative factor in atherosclerosis, but saturated fat intake has been common for centuries. The risk of heart disease has increased in the last 60 years in the United States, but the intake of saturated fat has not increased.3 I suggest that you tell an Eskimo not to eat saturated fat, and he will not have anything to eat at all. The original Eskimo diet included nothing but saturated fat in the form of blubber, with occasional fish thrown in for flavoring. Atherosclerosis is rare4 in the native Eskimo culture and as other such fat-eating cultures in the world. It is clear that how the organism metabolizes saturated fat is of greater importance than the intake of the substance. by modern medicine, consider the ultraviolet ray hypothesis. Modern medicine and the media urge protection from ultraviolet rays, but these rays have been around longer than we have, and yet skin cancers in such large numbers are new to the civilized world. Inadequate vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and zinc allow the rays to become damaging. Building the immune response is the best way to prevent pathology from this source as well, and that is a long-held chiropractic tenet.

Perhaps this concept of external pollution as a debilitating factor is the reason for the apparent dichotomy when dealing with environmental abuse. It is clearly and unequivocally inappropriate to subject oneself to obvious heavy metal insult, from the gamut of dental amalgams (mercury) to leaded gasoline (lead, et al.). Even small amounts of toxic metal exposure, when prolonged, most certainly will gradually overwhelm the host's resistance. What is not so well known, additionally, is that persistent intake of any mineral -- not just those known to be toxic -- will eventually disrupt the body's internal environment and create pathology. Current use of manganese to replace lead in the gasoline supply will just as surely result in contamination of living organisms over time, with symptoms of a different nature. Manganese excess has been correlated with violent behavior. Who knows where this pollutant will lead us?

However, when the internal immune system and innate resistance of the organism is maintained in optimum condition, a toxic metal burden of significant degree can be successfully thwarted from creating a pathological state. This innate resistance has its limits, of course, but the general poor health of the nation, if not the world, in terms of immune factors, results in significant compromise of our health and symptom level with only minimal exposure to these toxic metals.

Does a healthy resistance factor mean that we can continue polluting our environment without consequence? Certainly not. Continued minor insults and attacks upon this remarkable system place demands upon our energy and well-being that are uncalled for and clearly undesirable.

However, eliminating all forms of pollution, even though advisable, unfortunately equates with killing all of the bacteria and viruses on the planet. It simply will never happen. It is far better to maintain the resistance capabilities of the body in optimum condition to repeat the aforementioned chiropractic tenet. We must additionally prevent the constant chipping away of our defenses by well-known and not so well-known chemical additives to our immediate neighborhood. We should include the immediate neighborhood of other citizens of the world as well.

Through my experience with hair mineral analysis, it has become obvious that the most efficient method to accomplish this optimum immune resistance is the expedient of the chiropractic adjustment. symptom picture that we have labeled as "retracing" for as long as we have been a profession. Retracing is a real phenomenon, readily and easily proven with the appearance of increased toxic metals in hair samples subsequent to a series of adjustments. An increase in symptoms commensurate with the amount of heavy metal discharge further correlates this description of the retracing phenomenon.

Improving the health and resistance of the host is the last priority of the medical profession, and one that they fail miserably at doing. Sixty (60) milligrams of vitamin C per day (RDA), unfortunately, is another abysmal consideration offered as evidence of modern medicine's ineptness in prevention and holistic care. Optimal and well directed nutrition comes a close second to the spinal adjustment in provision of the best defense to an external threat.

It has been suggested that the Inca child most likely ate food prepared in earthen bowls. These eating utensils were probably primitively designed at best, resulting in leaching of metals from the clay, especially when exposed to heat. Even with this exposure -- an exposure that had to be significant and enduring -- there is another unanswered question. Were these high levels of pollutants simply passing through the elimination process, including the hair, or were these levels indicative of a toxic overload at the tissue cell level? Was he "sick" as a result? Patients that demonstrate these levels today are sick indeed. His zinc level of 10 mg%, 50% of normal, is further corroboration of a heavy metal burden. Zinc is the first mineral casualty in the system as a result of heavy metal overload.

Did this child have an Excedrin headache on a daily basis? Probably. Hopefully, his mother did not give him Excedrin or Tylenol for his symptoms. His liver was already working overtime and clearly losing the battle. Additional threat with the use of NSAIDs would probably have hastened the demise of his liver, which suggests some benefit to such an ancient existence. Not being able to get a supply of Twinkies was another obvious benefit.

Other mineral readings, especially the ratio of hair sodium and potassium, suggest that he was indeed in a state of physiological burnout. This condition of burnout would have allowed a development of heavy metal storage as indicated. He was subject to significant disease symptoms at a young age, for whatever reason. Alas, he probably did not seek out his local chiropractor for care either.


  1. Lenihan J. The Crumbs of Creation. Adam Hilger, Philadelphia, 1991.
  2. Dr. Andrew Weil, as quoted from the ARE Journal, 1995, Virginia Beach, VA.
  3. Pfeiffer C. Mental and Elemental Nutrients. Keats Pub., New Canaan, CT, 1975, p. 75.
  4. 4. Ibid.

William Risley, DC
Scottsdale, Arizona

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