Constipated Mummy Remains Expose Unusual Grasshopper Diet

The unlucky man's colon had swelled to six times its normal size.
Derya Ozdemir

A mummy about 1,000 years old that was scanned with an electron microscope has unveiled the last months of a man who lived in the Power Pecos Canyonlands of modern-day Texas -- an unfortunate man with a constipation so bad that it killed him. 

The man's mummified remains, which had been naturally preserved by the arid conditions, was discovered in 1937 and recently reanalyzed with new technologies. The new evidence has shown one of the earliest instances of early hospice care, thanks to the discovery of an unusual animal: grasshopper. 

One of the earliest evidence of hospice care

According to the studies, the man's colon had swelled to six times its normal size due to a nasty infection that made it impossible for him to digest food properly. He would die of "megacolon" ultimately.

Previously in 2003, Karl Reinhard, professor in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and his team had reported they had found 2.6 pounds (1,170 grams) of feces inside the mummy along with food remains that his body wasn't able to process.

When considered together with the size of his colon, researchers were able to conclude that he was extremely constipated and suffered malnourishment because of his body not processing food.

What the new scan revealed

The recent study had Reinhard and his team reanalyzing the remains using a scanning electron microscope. This new scan revealed that he was fed solely grasshoppers in his final months either by his family or members of his community. However, the twist is that the legs of the grasshoppers had been removed prior to feeding. 

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"So they were giving him mostly the fluid-rich body — the squishable part of the grasshopper," Reinhard said in a press release. "In addition to being high in protein, it was pretty high in moisture. So it would have been easier for him to eat in the early stages of his megacolon experience."


This stands as a microscopic evidence of what could be considered hospice care between 1,000 to 1,400 years ago.

The discovery will be published in a future book called "The Handbook of Mummy Studies."

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