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Nubian mummies studied in the 1990s were found to contain significant levels of tetracycline; the beer brewed at the time could have been the source. Tetracycline sparked the development of many chemically altered antibiotics, so has proved to be one of the most important discoveries made in the field of antibiotics.
"Given the amount of tetracycline there, they had to know what they were doing," said co-author George Armelagos, a biological anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta. "They may not have known what tetracycline was, but they certainly knew something was making them feel better."
Even the tibia and skull belonging to a 4-year-old were full of tetracycline, suggesting that they were giving high doses to the child to try and cure him of illness, Nelson says.