On-line version ISSN 0717-7356
MANSILLA, Josefina et al. ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND CONTEMPORARY HUMAN HAIR COMPOSITION AND MORPHOLOGY. Chungará (Arica) [online]. 2011, vol.43, n.2, pp. 293-302. ISSN 0717-7356. http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0717-73562011000200010.
Contemporary and mummy hair samples are characterized and compared, using modern chemical and physical characterization methods. It is found that in cave conditions mummy hair can be preserved even if it interacts with environmental dirt or soil, X-ray diffraction and infrared spectroscopy results. Hair is an ion exchanger and the exposure to earth and water can facilitate the interaction of some elements with hair as shown by X-ray fluorescence, energy dispersive spectroscopy and neutron activation analysis. Post mortem degradation is detected through the reaction of cystine and through the partial collapse of the scale arrangement. The mummy hair scales become less ordered and the hair surface less smooth, such features were clearly observed by scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy. The presented interdisciplinary results show that alteration of hair initiates in the core but scales are often well preserved. The features found in mummy hair suggest that the correlation between chemical composition and health or nutrition of ancient people should be carefully evaluated due to environmental contamination.
Keywords : Hair; mummy; human; scalp; cuticle; cortex; keratin.