Ramesses II

H/T Harley for this article about Mummies’ clogged arteries take smoking, fatty foods, lethargy out of the mix.

CT scans of 137 ancient mummies from three continents show that our ancestors had plaque in their arteries, too, even though they never smoked, never tasted ice cream or pork rinds, and had no choice but to exercise vigorously every day of their lives.

According to the study, which appeared recently in the Lancet, at least one-third of the mummies, who lived as long as 5,000 years ago, had arteries that had narrowed as a result of atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty deposits in the arterial wall. Apparently the cardiovascular system has a tendency to clog up over time…

The diet of the mummies varied widely, but contained ample protein and vegetables (and presumably no cupcakes or pork rinds). Aside from the few Egyptian mummies who lived their lives as pampered royalty, these ancient people used their muscles constantly.

Yet, the atherosclerosis was found in mummies who died in what we today would consider middle age (almost none made it to 60). And just as today, their arteries became more narrow as they got older. CT scans of modern people have demonstrated that after the age of 60 for men and 70 for women, some degree of atherosclerosis is all but universal.

Well, unlike most of these mummies, I’ve made it to 65 years of age without anything much going wrong with me. I must have done something right.

What’s the difference between my life and that of an ancient Egyptian? They probably did indeed get lots of exercise, building pyramids and stuff – while I never get any. Not deliberate ‘exercise’ anyway. They lived in the freshest of fresh air, not a factory for a thousand miles, while I lived in one big industrial town or other for 30 years. They never smoked any tobacco at all, while I’ve been smoking for 45 years. They drank beer and wine, but most likely not the neat whisky that I knock back to send myself to sleep at night. And they probably ate a lot of fruit and vegetables, and fish (from the Nile), and eggs, and not very much meat. But my diet is relatively meat-intensive, usually accompanied with fairly token amounts of vegetables. It’s a meat-rich, fat-rich, sugar-rich, salt-rich, and chocolate-chip-cookie-rich. I usually prepare and cook my own food, but I’m not averse to fish ‘n’ chips from a chippie, or a Chinese or Indian takeaway. All I might add about my diet is that I don’t eat very much.

So those Egyptians ate more or less the perfect diet, and got plenty of exercise, and enjoyed lots of fresh air, and they were pretty well all dead by the age of 60. I do more or less the opposite, and I’m still going strong at 65.

The simple answer is that I’ve lived a largely idle, easy life – and that’s the sort of life that’s conducive to relative longevity. I’ve used public and private transport to travel around. I’ve used power tools to drill holes and saw things up. I live a Least Action life. I live a life that is in accord with Idle Theory‘s Survival of the Idlest. And this theory is very simple: living things that have to work hard to stay alive are likely to be outlived by ones that don’t. It applies to plants and animals, but also in human life. And in human life, economic growth entails reducing human work, and increasing human idleness. All our important innovations are ones which reduce human work. Like the cars and buses and planes that I use to travel around, instead of walking. Or the power tools that take the hard work out of cutting stuff up, or drilling holes in it. Or the piped water and gas and electricity that mean that I no longer need to head down to the village well with a bucket to get water, or chop wood every day for my fire. Even computers make doing mathematical calculations easier. Look at any piece of good design, and it tends to make life effortless.

And that’s why we’re all living longer. It probably doesn’t matter a damn what anyone eats or drinks or smokes.

As it happens, I have a library book that I’m reading right now about Ancient Egypt. It’s about the pharaoh who was probably the most illustrious pharaoh of them all. It’s called Ramesses II, by Joyce Tyldesley, and it’s a delightful book.

Ramesses II lived for over 90 years, and in the process outlived not only many of his children (he had about a hundred children from an almost equal number of wives), but also some of his grandchildren as well. But his mummified body reveals that he did not escape ill-health:

The old king’s face and neck were heavily lined – hardly surprising, given that he had lived for almost a century – and the undertakers had helpfully attempted to smooth out his wrinkles before bandaging his head. Ramesses had suffered badly from the indignities of prolonged Egyptian old age. The severe arthritis that affected his hip, and the arteriosclerosis in his lower limbs, would have caused circulatory problems, and would have prevented him from walking comfortably. Elliot Smith, without the benefit of X-ray analysis, described Ramesses teeth as ‘clean and in an excellent state of preservation: they were only slightly worn’. In fact, though well-spaced and properly aligned, the king’s teeth and gums were badly decayed, and, in his final years, must have caused him constant pain.

We may deduce from Ramesses’ very slightly worn teeth that he ate only the most well-refined foods of a kind that a modern health zealot would blanch at the sight of. And he probably didn’t cook for himself either. He almost certainly had a kitchen full of top Egyptian chefs that could knock up a quail-and-date consomme in next to no time.

And if the king couldn’t walk comfortably, it probably didn’t matter. He probably didn’t actually need to walk anywhere at all anyway, and would have been carried around in a litter. After all, he was pharaoh of Egypt at its illustrious height, so he probably didn’t have to lift a finger to do anything.

And he sired about 100 children. Which suggests that he wasn’t in the least bit a killjoy puritan. And what goes better with sex than alcohol (or various other drugs). And copious clouds of heady incense. And naked dancing girls. And music.

Piece it all together, and it certainly looks as if Ramesses II lived off the Egyptian equivalent of high quality gourmet food and drink, did next to no exercise, and had any number of slaves who did absolutely everything for  him (most probably including spooning the quail-and-date consomme into his mouth). That is, after all, what slaves were for.

In short he was a precursor of the modern lard-arse who sits on his sofa eating Kentucky Fried Chicken and drinking lager and watching porn.

And he lived to be over 90. And he lived to over 90 because his was the easiest life of anybody’s in Egypt. And if his sons and grandsons pre-deceased him it was because they were being sent off to fight wars, or build temples, and generally wear themselves out before their time. Ramesses got everyone else to do everything, and then took all the credit for it himself, by engraving his achievements on every piece of stone he could lay his hands on (or rather that his servants could lay their hands on).

The book includes glimpses of life at the other end of Egyptian society. From the Anastasi Papyrus:

“Come let me tell you the woes of the soldier… He is called up to go to Syria. He is not permitted to rest. There are no clothes and no sandals. The weapons of war are assembled at the fortress of Sile. He has to march uphill through the mountains. He drinks water only every third day, and then it is tainted and smells of salt. His body is racked with sickness. The enemy comes and surrounds him with weapons, and life ebbs away from him… When the army is victorious, the captives are handed over to pharaoh, and must be escorted to Egypt. The foreign woman faints on the march; the soldier is forced to support her. While he is supporting the woman he drops his pack and it is stolen. His own wife and children are back home in the village; he dies and does not reach it. If he survives he is worn out through marching….”

Not an easy life at all. In fact, it’s a life of unremitting hard work. Lots of exercise. Not much food. Probably no alcohol at all. Just the ticket for a modern health zealot.

Anyway, faced with the evidence that people who didn’t smoke, and got plenty of exercise and fresh air, nevertheless suffered from atherosclerosis, and were mostly dead by the age of 60, what does Dr. Donald LaVan, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, have to say?

Above all, don’t smoke, says LaVan, and engage in regular physical activity.

About Frank Davis

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19 Responses to Ramesses II

  1. Marie Cooper says:

    “Above all, don’t smoke, says LaVan, and engage in regular physical activity.”

    It is as if there is a wall between these people and anything the rest of us recognise as reality.
    I wonder how he would respond if someone told him that orang utangs and gorillas both develop atherosclerosis as they age as do wild salmon (which probably means eating it won’t protect you and me from the problem despite the constant nagging to eat oily fish). He would probably suggest that they all stop smoking.

    None so blind as those who will not see.

  2. Dave Allison says:

    I am 64, smoker, vegitarian and have had 100+ dancing girls.

  3. Rose says:

    Further to Smoking Helps Protect Against Lung Cancer

    “Then one day as if by magic, a few thousand mice from the smoking experiment “accidentally” found their way into the radioactive particle experiment, which in the past had killed every single one of its unfortunate test subjects. But this time, completely against the odds, sixty percent of the smoking mice survived exposure to the radioactive particles. The only variable was their prior exposure to copious quantities of tobacco smoke.”

    Smoking does NOT cause lung cancer, in fact it just might protect you from nuclear fallout
    Lauren A. Colby

    “Anyway, in the Norwegian study, investigators induced pneumonitis (lung inflammation) in rats by exposing the animals to radiation. The animals were then exposed to tobacco smoke, and it was shown that the smoke actually suppressed the inflammation in the lungs. In short, smoking is good for you if you have pneumonitis (I guess).”
    http: //www.sott.net/article/227052-Smoking-does-NOT-cause-lung-cancer-in-fact-it-just-might-protect-you-from-nuclear-fallout

    This one sounds very similar.

    Tobacco smoke exposure suppresses radiation-induced inflammation in the lung: a study of bronchoalveolar lavage and ultrastructural morphology in the rat.

    “Previous studies on patients with breast cancer, who received postsurgical irradiation, displayed a markedly suppressed inflammatory response in the lung of smoking patients compared to nonsmokers.

    The aim of the present study was to investigate further the effect of exposure to tobacco smoke on the development of irradiation-induced pneumonitis in the rat.

    Four groups of animals were used: controls (C); those exposed to tobacco smoke (S); those irradiated but not exposed to smoke (RNS); and those irradiated and exposed to tobacco smoke (RS). The rats were exposed to a diluted main stream of cigarette smoke, at a concentration of about 0.4 mg.l-1, in a nose-only exposure system for 1 h.day-1, 5 days.week-1 for 10 weeks.

    Exposure to tobacco smoke started 3 weeks before irradiation. The basal one third of both lungs was exposed to a single radiation dose of 28 Gy (6 MeV photons). All animals were killed 7 weeks after irradiation. We compared findings in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and tissue morphology.

    The alveolar tissue showed less inflammation in the RS-group than in the RNS-group. Most strikingly, mast cells were increased one hundredfold in the lung interstitium and thirty fold in the peribronchial area in the RNS-group, whereas no increase was found in the RS-group or in the controls.

    The alveolar septa of the RNS-group were thickened, with occurrence of inflammatory cells and mast cells, whereas the RS-group displayed no difference as compared to the non-irradiated, nonsmoking group”

    Which would appear to tie in with this.

    ‘Surprise benefit from carbon monoxide’- 2008

    “Scientists believe that carbon monoxide may be of benefit to patients with serious lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

    New research has revealed that that people with COPD who were given a small amount of the gas showed signs of improvement in their condition.

    Researchers at the University Medical Centre in Groningen, the Netherlands, found that the gas appeared to ease the inflammation of lung tissues when given in low doses over a four-day period”.
    http: //www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=13267

    Apparently in the S group the amount of macrophages increased as compared to the controls.

    Which could be why the builders working next door can cut through brickwork with a Stihl saw without wearing a mask with apparent impunity.

    I still don’t think that’s a good idea.

    Macrophages function in both non-specific defense (innate immunity) as well as help initiate specific defense mechanisms (adaptive immunity) of vertebrate animals. Their role is to phagocytose, or engulf and then digest, cellular debris and pathogens, either as stationary or as mobile cells. They also stimulate lymphocytes and other immune cells to respond to pathogens.

    They are specialized phagocytic cells that attack foreign substances, infectious microbes and cancer cells through destruction and ingestion.”

  4. Kin_Free says:

    This was something I couldn’t get my head around when I was a child. Exercise has always been touted as good and allegedly gave you a longer life but I would see all the slim, muscular, physically fit, employed in hard physical labour such as digging holes, working the farms, factories etc die young and all the unfit, rich, fat middle and upper classes living long lives. Why? Was voluntary physical exercise somehow different from physical exercise relating to work? It just didn’t make sense.

    What does make sense is that physically fit workers can do more physical labour than the unfit so they would earn more money for the employer and, as you said earlier, a physically fit army would be more effective, than an unfit force when fighting an enemy, to seize/defend the lands of the landed gentry. Could this be just another con trick to get more output from workers?

    In actual fact I think that exercise does provide many benefits to allow you to do things that you want to do like climbing mountains, earning praise for running faster, jumping higher etc – ie stuff that you would be unable to do if unfit, but longer life? Possibly, but I don’t think so.

    Wasn’t there a study done years ago that showed we all have roughly the same amount of heartbeats in life. If life is measured in heartbeats then a tiny mouse lives as long as an elephant – they both have the same amount in their lifespan, only a mouse has a heartbeat running many times faster. Physical exercise increases your heartbeat manifold, the more often you engage in physical activity the more heartbeats you ‘use up’?

    The main difference, I believe, is psychological and to do with self determination. If you are forced to do (or not to do) something against your better judgement, the effect is STRESS, The less control you have over your own life (and work), the more stress is generated and this is the biggest killer of all.

    Greater wealth usually equates to greater self determination but things like smoke bans can have the same effect where someones values are imposed on you against your will. Having control of your own destiny, or not as the case may be, determines your happiness, stress levels and ultimately your lifespan. If ‘public health’ is to increase life span as well as quality of life then they must be prevented from imposing their flawed ‘rules’ on others.

    I also believe that surrendering to health zealots also has an adverse health effect by affecting perceptions of self-worth and self-determination. Fighting these zealots means you still have some control over your own destiny and you can still have pride in yourself.

    Quit smoking and die – fight the bast**ds and live longer!

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Quit smoking and die – fight the bast**ds and live longer!
      Damn STR88888!

    • nisakiman says:

      Hear Hear KF!

      I rather like the heartbeats theory, given that I have quite a slow heartbeat and also almost never get stressed about anything. I avoid stress by smoking plenty of cigarettes and drinking copious quantities of red wine, of course! :)

      Levity aside, I do think that stress is the biggest factor in longevity, or lack thereof. And I think you are right insofar as control over ones life is essential if you are to avoid getting stressed. My statement above about not getting stressed is true, but I think that is just a natural inclination. Or perhaps it’s because I imbibed so much dope in my youth that it left me in a permanent state of laid-backness!

      So with luck I’ll outlive all those joyless bastards who want to deprive me of my pleasures. Whatever, I know one thing for sure; however long I live, my life will have been a lot more satisfying and fun than any of the puritans could ever dream of achieving, given their preoccupation with prohibiting the pleasures of others.

  5. harleyrider1978 says:

    Something Dave Atherton found awhile back………..

    In 2008 this paper was produced in America and concludes that nictotine and hence active smoking and passive smoking leads to less asthma. It also gives the aetiology (causation) why nicotine and the biologial process that reduces asthma in recipients.

    The results unequivocally show that, even after multiple allergen sensitizations, nicotine dramatically suppresses inflammatory/allergic parameters in the lung including the following: eosinophilic/lymphocytic emigration; mRNA and/or protein expression of the Th2 cytokines/chemokines IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, IL-25, and eotaxin; leukotriene C4; and total as well as allergen-specific IgE. unequivocally show that, even after multiple allergen sensitizations, nicotine dramatically suppresses inflammatory/allergic parameters in the lung including the following: eosinophilic/lymphocytic emigration; mRNA and/or protein expression of the Th2 cytokines/chemokines IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, IL-25, and eotaxin; leukotriene C4; and total as well as allergen-specific IgE. ”


  6. harleyrider1978 says:

    Elvis Presley I Did It My Way Lyrics

    And now the end is near
    So I face the final curtain
    My friend, I’ll say it clear
    I’ll state my case of which I’m certain

    I’ve lived a life that’s full
    I’ve traveled each and every highway
    And more, much more than this
    I did it my way

    Regrets, I’ve had a few
    But then again, too few to mention
    I did what I had to do
    And saw it through without exception

    I planned each charted course
    Each careful step along the byway
    Oh, and more, much more than this
    I did it my way

    Yes, there were times, I’m sure you know
    When I bit off more than I could chew
    But through it all when there was doubt

    I ate it up and spit it out
    I faced it all and I stood tall
    And did it my way

    I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
    I’ve had my fails, my share of losing
    And now as tears subside
    I find it all so amusing

    To think I did all that
    And may I say, not in a shy way
    Oh, no, no not me
    I did it my way

    For what is a man, what has he got
    If not himself, then he has not
    To say the words he truly feels
    And not the words he would reveal

    The record shows I took the blows
    And did it my way
    The record shows I took the blows
    And did it my way

    End ‘cruel’ smoking ban, says health campaigner

    Australia’s leading anti-tobacco campaigner claims the NSW government has gone too far in forcing its outdoor smoking reforms onto vulnerable psychiatric patients held in public hospitals.

    Ashley Coleman took his life in March after being granted an unsupervised cigarette break off-site from Liverpool Hospital’s mental health unit – where smoking has been banned.

    Now Coleman’s distraught family have found an unlikely ally in renowned tobacco control lobbyist Simon Chapman, who has backed their call for a review of laws that force psychiatric patients to quit smoking when admitted.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/end-cruel-smoking-ban-says-health-campaigner-20130525-2n3rb.html#ixzz2UPOKxn8K


    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Simple Simon backtracking!!!!!

      • Junican says:

        Simple Simon had better watch out. If he carries on in this vein, he’ll be ostracised and excommunicated like Dr. Seigel.

        • roobeedoo2 says:

          Nah, he’ll probably use it to make the case that all smokers are mentally ill.

        • Rose says:

          It’s entirely consistent with his position.

          Banning smoking outdoors is seldom ethically justifiable


          “Several Australian hospitals are proposing to extend their indoor smoking bans outdoors. In 1996, the mayor of Friendship Heights, Maryland similarly sought to ban smoking in municipal parks and on sidewalks. A leading non-smokers’ rights advocate in Sydney has attracted publicity for his proposal to take civil action to have his suburban tennis club ban smoking in outdoor spectator areas, typically occupied by a handful of people waiting for courts to become vacant. In Kerala and Goa in India, smoking is banned in public spaces such as beaches, attracting fines.1

          Such proposals “push the envelope” of tobacco control into areas where questions need to be asked to ensure tobacco control policies are firmly anchored to scientific evidence and especially concern those who value the freedom of individuals to do what they please to the extent that this does not harm others.2 They invite consideration of whether zero tolerance of public exposure to toxic agents is a reasonable policy for civil societies and whether the loudly proclaimed exquisite sensitivities of a small minority should drive public policy.

          Further, they invite us to reflect on the extent to which these policies risk alienating a large number of people who might otherwise be supportive of efforts to reduce environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure in situations where there is significant risk or reduced amenity.

          In short, we need to ask whether efforts to prevent people smoking outdoors risk besmirching tobacco control advocates as the embodiment of intolerant, paternalistic busybodies, who, not content at protecting their own health, want to force smokers to not smoke even in circumstances where the effects of their smoking on others are immeasurably small. Such alienation may undermine support for other tobacco policies which, if implemented, may bring profound public health benefits to communities.

          Why should smokers not be allowed to smoke in hospital grounds or other designated outdoor locations, well away from any reasonable prospect of harming (as distinct from visually offending) anyone?

          Advocates for outdoor bans advance a number of arguments, each of which raise significant ethical concerns. In this paper, I will rehearse their arguments, comment on why I believe they are ethically unsustainable, and conclude that there is justification for banning smoking in outdoor settings only in circumstances where exposure is sustained and significant such as in crowded spectator stadia.”

          Like Dr. Siegel, he is most worried about TC showing themselves up for what they are, rather than any trauma that their policies may cause to individuals.

          Don’t attribute empathy where there is none.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Thanks. That’s another one for the Smokers Graveyard.

  7. cherie79 says:

    Here was me thinking I was just lazy since I have tried to avoid doing anything strenuous all my life, I just live the way I want to and at 70 I am quite content to smoke, drink red wine and eat what I want. Since I have reached 70 everything now is a bonus and I intend to enjoy it.

  8. magnetic01 says:

    Frank, I have a comment (re: Simon Crapman) in moderation.

  9. magnetic01 says:

    Re: mental patients

    It should be noted that voluntary patients are presenting for a particular mental condition. They are not presenting for smoking cessation. Involuntary patients are classified as such by a court order that requires them to undergo treatment for a particular mental condition. There is nothing in the court order about smoking cessation: Smoking is NOT why they have been classified as a mental patient. The facility is obliged to only treat the condition deemed by the court. It must also be remembered that mental health patients are not criminals.

    If an involuntary patient is asking for a cigarette, they obviously don’t want to quit. Forcing smoking cessation on them is going beyond the scope of treatment permitted for the patient and violating informed consent (either patient or court). It’s bureaucrats and antismoking activist bigots terribly messing with vulnerable patients. Mental patients are not some experimental quantity whose entire lives are at the complete disposal/whim of psychiatrists/bureaucrats. There is VERY serious misconduct occurring here that’s coming from the very top under the influence of neurotic antismoking bigots and Pharma interests.

    The “authorities” typically claim that patients are “treated” with NRT as if this makes their position any more tenable, that NRT somehow “solves everything”. In addition to the above concerns, NRT is next to useless for people without mental conditions that are wanting to quit smoking. NRT is entirely useless for those that do not want to quit, let alone that they might also be in a highly distressed mental state. This NRT “treatment” only generates sales for pharmaceutical companies. Why would anyone subject mental patients to this politically/financially-motivated assault? Why aren’t those in the mental health hierarchy aware that NRT is useless? It is those running mental health facilities that are demonstrating some serious mental issues.

  10. magnetic01 says:

    Don’t believe too much of Crapman’s “voice of reason”. Crapman is a pathological liar, a long-time propagandist for the cause.

    More recently, Chapman has been involved in getting outdoor bans implemented.

    Chapman’s University of Sydney has banned smoking on campus, save four designated smoking areas that are close to the perimeter of the university anyway.
    In this article, Chapman reiterates his position that he does not support outdoor bans except in al-fresco dining areas. He claims he does not support bans that effectively stamp out smoking on an entire university campus; these bans at U of Sydney have “nothing to do with me”. Although he does not agree with such bans, he does not question the mental state of those proposing/instituting such bans, i.e., bigotry. He spends most of the article reinforcing Tobacco Control propaganda, e.g., “no safe level”. And, of course, Chapman has to indulge in his incoherent analogies:
    “Someone smoking next to me while I eat lunch outdoors is not going to really harm me, but the imposition is unpleasant in the same way as loud music away from music venues or dog faeces underfoot.”

    Now here’s the thing. While Chapman claims he does not support university-wide bans in particular, he is, again, lying. This is an [Australian] advocacy manual for instituting smoking bans at universities, beginning with a few [inconvenient] designated
    smoking areas, eventually followed by a complete smoking ban on the entire campus. Lo and behold, there’s Chapman’s signature to the plan (p.2).
    Guide For A Tobacco Free Campus

    From the same “Guide”, you’ll also notice that he is a board member of the antismoking activist group ASH. ASH was also behind the recent, despicable “Lavac Incident” of which Chapman surely must have been aware:

  11. magnetic01 says:

    Have re-posted comment re: Simon Crapman. Awaiting moderation.

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