Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Studying hair of ancient Peruvians answers questions about stress

Date:
December 12, 2009
Source:
University of Western Ontario
Summary:
A first-of-its-kind archaeological study has detected the stress hormone cortisol in the hair of ancient Peruvians, who lived between 550 and 1532 A.D.

View of the Lost Incan City of Machu Picchu near Cusco, Peru. Recent research has detected the stress hormone cortisol in the hair of ancient Peruvians.
Credit: iStockphoto/Amy Harris

Recent studies show that one in three people suffer from stress and the number is on the rise. But stress isn't a new problem.

While the physiological state wasn't properly named until the 1930s, new research from The University of Western Ontario proves stress has plagued humans for hundreds, and perhaps thousands of years.

The first study of its kind, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, detected the stress hormone cortisol in the hair of ancient Peruvians, who lived between 550 and 1532 A.D.

When an individual is stressed -- due to real or perceived threats -- cortisol is released into nearly every part of the body, including blood, saliva, urine and hair.

Emily Webb, a PhD candidate at Western in Archaeological Science and the study's lead author, says the findings are important because it will allow us to better understand how ancient people behaved and felt during their time on Earth but more importantly, to better understand stress and how it affects us today.

"By studying the lives of people using traditional archeological methods like surveying and excavation and combining that with new research techniques like sampling ancient hair specimens, we can get a good picture of what life was like and how our ancestors may have responded to life-changing experiences like illness and disease," explains Webb.

Analysis of cortisol levels in ancient hair allows researchers to assess stress during a short, but critical, period of an individual's life. For this pilot study, the Western researchers selected hair samples from 10 individuals from five different archaeological sites in Peru, and analyzed them in segments to determine cortisol levels.

While many of the individuals studied showed high stress levels right before death, Webb noted that a majority also experienced multiple episodes of stress throughout their final years of their life, again proving that much like today, stress was very much apart of ancient Peruvian's daily lives.

Contributing to the Western research were members of the Faculty of Social Science and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry including Webb, Steven Thomson (Department of Physiology and Pharmacology), Andrew Nelson (Department of Anthropology), Christine White (Department of Anthropology, Canada Research Chair in Bioarchaeology and Isotopic Anthropology), Dr. Gideon Koren (Departments of Physiology and Pharmacology, Medicine, Paediatrics, Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology), Dr. Michael Rieder (Departments of Physiology and Pharmacology, Medicine, Pediatrics, Lawson Research Institute, Robarts Research Institute, CIHR-GSK Chair in Paediatric Clinical Pharmacology) and Dr. Stan Van Uum (Department of Medicine and Lawson Research Institute).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Western Ontario. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Emily Webb, Steven Thomson, Andrew Nelson, Christine White, Gideon Koren, Michael Rieder, Stan Van Uum. Assessing individual systemic stress through cortisol analysis of archaeological hair. Journal of Archaeological Science, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2009.11.010

Cite This Page:

University of Western Ontario. "Studying hair of ancient Peruvians answers questions about stress." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209114150.htm>.
University of Western Ontario. (2009, December 12). Studying hair of ancient Peruvians answers questions about stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209114150.htm
University of Western Ontario. "Studying hair of ancient Peruvians answers questions about stress." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209114150.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Stepping up their vigilance against Ebola, federal authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the US from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

AFP (Oct. 22, 2014) Polish doctors describe how they helped a paralysed man walk again, with the patient in disbelief at the return of sensation to his legs. Duration: 1:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins