Scientists reveal cause of death of 6,500-year-old Detmold child

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
January 10, 2024

The Detmold Child is the name that has been given to an ancient Peruvian mummy that dates back an incredible 6,500 years – that’s 3,000 years before the birth of Tutankhamun.  Recent computer topography scans of the infant have now revealed details about the child’s age, health, and cause of death, according to a report in The Hindu.

Mummified Detmold Child - Peru

The well-preserved infant was discovered with eyes closed, arms folded and legs hunched, a burial pose typical of the region and culture. The child had small, flat, rectangular pendant strung around its neck, believed to be made of bone.

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Officials at the Lippe State Museum in the German city of Detmold, where the approximately 6,500-year-old mummy is on display, said scientists and heart specialists at the North Rhine Westphalia Heart and Diabetes Centre (HDZ NRW) used a high-resolution CT scanner on it. The results found that the infant was between 8 to 10 months of age at the time of death, and suffered from a very rare congenital heart malformation known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a rare congenital condition in which parts of the left side of the heart do not develop completely.  The condition leads to death in early infancy. Nowadays, the survival rate with modern treatment is 70 per cent.

Scientists reveal cause of death of 6,500-year-old Detmold child

An illustration of HLHS, found to be present in the mummified remains of the Delmold child. Image source.

The Delmond Child was also found to have Vitamin D deficiency, a condition known as turricephaly, which leads to an abnormal, conically-shaped skull, and a pulmonary infection caused by tuberculosis or pneumonia, which would have combined with the heart condition to cause the death of the child. The remains of the infant were radio-carbon dated to 4505-4457 BC.

The Detmold Child has recently been returned from a three-year-tour as part of the controversial Mummies of the World exhibition in U.S., which featured more than 150 mummies from across the globe. Questions have been raised over whether it is ethical to put human remains on display to be gawked at by curious visitors, or whether the exhibition serves an important educational purpose.