The Peruvian Heart - an Egyptian Connection

A New Peruvian and Egyptian TieThe following is the article found at R&D Magazine with my comments following.

Peruvian Heart    
by Fred Jueneman
R & D Online Magazine
3 November 1997

Back in 1987, the San Diego Museum of Man received two children's mummified limbs that had been excavated in Peru's Chillon Valley. Interestingly, each right hand held a hollow funerary cane stoppered with raw cotton, not unlike items associated with ancient Egyptian funeral rituals.Inside both tubes was a white powder that was first thought to be a hallucinogenic drug. Subsequent scanning electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction analysis at Scripps Institution of Oceanography identified it as gypsum, an inorganic material that in its dehydrated state -- plaster of Paris -- acts as a desiccant.

There the matter might have stood, leaving the mystery as to both why these canes were filled with gypsum and why they were held in the children's hands. But a sample of the powder from one cane was sent in 1993 to medical technologist George Talbott, a museum research associate. Talbott didn't know it at the time, but there were uncharacterized dark specks in the gypsum.

Talbott had a Zeiss universal light microscope at his disposal, supporting brightfield, darkfield, phase contrast, and polarization applications, with trinocular optics for preparing photos of any specimen. Using the advanced technique of light staining, supported by phase contrast, darkfield, and polarization, Talbott first observed a small sample of the gypsum at 400 power amplification -- and recognized one of the dark spots as a fragment of what appeared to be triturated heart tissue. Other samples were then found to contain myocardial cells with pseudomorphs of mitochondria, heart-muscle fiber, intercalated disks, and both epicardial and pericardial wall material.

Talbott sent several photomicrographs to associate Allen Steinmetz, a microbiologist at the Univ. of California at Berkeley. He confirmed Talbott's findings. A formal report was then filed with the San Diego museum in early 1994.

Still, such a curious finding required additional support, which the museum apparently secured from pathologist Art Aufderheide of the Univ. of Minnesota. Talbott's report was subsequently featured in a paper presented by Rose Tyson, the museum's curator in physical anthropology, at the annual meeting of the Paleopathology Association held that spring in Denver.

Why is the finding of mummified heart-tissue fragments in Peruvian funerary paraphernalia so curious?

In ancient Egyptian funeral ritual, such a ritual is not unknown. Sir Wallis Budge, the noted Egyptologist and Assyriologist, said that the Egyptians mummified the heart separately from other organs of the body in their rituals, but others more recently have dissented. Still others claim that such practice was performed in the late dynasties of Egypt.

Nonetheless, however late such rituals were performed in ancient Egypt doesn't detract in the least from the fact of a parallel practice in Peruvian antiquity. The question naturally arises as to what -- if any -- influence Egypt might have had on the Chillon Valley in Peru.

Standard archaeological persuasion says that there was little or no contact between the Old World and the New prior to the Phoenicians, and in any case it would have been by accident -- storm-blown shipwreck -- rather than by design. Succinctly put, anything before Columbus automatically becomes apocryphal. Be that as it may, Talbott waxes poetic in his final discussion:

"I did not begin my microscopic analysis with any expectation of finding heart material, but when I did observe structures resembling cardiac tissue, I was deeply moved," writes Talbott. "I was moved by a reasonable image of the youngster, cut off from his games and family and times so early,  walking across the sky to his gods, holding his tube."

So, we have hollow funerary canes, much like those used in Egypt, holding portions of human heart, found in Peru.  Now, does this show a tie between the Old and New Worlds which would be supported by the Book of Mormon? Although some may contest it, it nonetheless does show that possible connection.

So the next time some critic of Mormon studies asks you where the connection is made,  for the Book of Mormon's claim, between the New and Old Worlds,  rest assured that this is one such piece of evidence.