Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kicking against the pricks

Apparently the only society in the history of humanity that doesn't accept acupuncture is the modern Western world. Acupuncture has been used everywhere and everywhen. There's Ötzi the Iceman. And now there's the mummy with the irrefutable evidence that ancient Peruvians also practiced acupuncture.

Mysterious circle tattoos on a Peruvian mummy have been identified as containing burned plant material. The finding sheds light on a possible ancient healing practice that may have been based on similar principles to acupuncture.

The 1000-year-old female mummy was found unwrapped in the sand of the desert at Chiribaya Alta in southern Peru in the early 1990s. She bears two distinct types of tattoos: emblems representing birds, apes, reptiles and other symbols cover her hands, arm and lower left leg, while an asymmetric pattern of overlapping circles is present on her neck.

Maria Anna Pabst of the Medical University of Graz in Austria has determined that these are a result of acupuncture. How does she know this?

Pabst points out that the circles are close to Chinese acupuncture points. She says that tattooing a person at these points could have worked in a similar way to how acupuncture is thought to work. The plants chosen as the staining material would presumably have had medicinal properties, she adds.

Leaving aside the fact that herbs in tattoos have absolutely nothing to do with acupuncture, why is it always that these tattoos are "near" acupuncture points? Every point on the body is "near" an acupuncture point! Tattoos cover a large amount of skin. If any tattoo, anywhere, ever, wasn't near an acupuncture point, EoR would be amazed.

But wait! There's more proof!

When she showed a drawing of the tattoos to a modern-day shamanic healer in Peru, he suggested that they might have been part of a strengthening ritual on an upper-class subject.

Oh. EoR's convinced. Though he doesn't quite understand what a shamanic healer (many of whom can be found by an internet search, and many of whom are not 'shamans' at all in the traditional sense but just newage scammers — EoR has no idea what sort was consulted in this case) would have to say about acupuncture. It's like consulting an environmental toxicologist about your cholesterol problems.

Interestingly, Dr Pabst has also been involved in analysing Ötzi's tattoos.

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