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No. 121: Jan-Feb 1999

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Acupuncture 5,200 Years Ago?

The Tyrolean Iceman died in the Alps about 5,200 years ago, but his mummified body is exceptionally well-preserved -- so well-preserved that 15 groups of tattoo marks on his body stand out vividly. These punctures do not seem to be ornamental, like those on a sailor's biceps, nor are they on parts of the body usually displayed. What is most interesting are their locations; some groups are placed at traditional Chinese acupuncture points. Bolstering this suspicion is the determination from computer tomography (noninvasive imaging) that the Iceman suffered from arthrosis of the lumbar spine. The Iceman's body is punctured at the points usually used by acupuncturists to treat this condition!

"These findings raise the possibility that the practice of therapeutically intended acupuncture originated long before the medical tradition of ancient China (approximately 1000 B.C.) and that its geographical origins were Eurasian rather than East-Asian, consistent with far-reaching intercultural contacts of prehistoric mankind."

(Dorfer, Leopold, et al; "5200-Year-Old Acupuncture in Central Europe?" Science, 282:242, 1998.)

From Science Frontiers #121, JAN-FEB 1999. 1999-2000 William R. Corliss