|12 November 2003
Seed study may reveal early euthanasia
A paleoethnobotanist in Florida, America working on the so-called "Elderberry Woman" believes she may have found evidence of euthanasia. Lee Ann Newsom - an expert in ancient plant remains - made her discovery after analysing the last meal of the 7,300-year old woman who was found near the Kennedy Space Centre.
The remains were found in the mid-1980s at the Windover Archaeological Site - a Paleo-Indian burial ground of 169 bodies, dating back 8,000 years, and preserved in a peat bog. The preservation was such that 91 of the skulls still contained brain matter. Also found were antler and wooden tools, and sophisticated hand-woven fabrics. The cemetery is one of the largest in North America of that age.
In the mud under her lower abdominal cavity were 3.200 seeds, which were found to have come from approximately 550 elderberries, 40 grapes, a prickly pear cactus and a toxic black nightshade. Only nine of the seeds were cracked, prompting speculation they had formed a medicinal tea aimed at putting to an end to her suffering from extensive bone cancer.
Mrs Newsom said "These were hunter-gatherers, not brutish people. They cared enough about their people to bury them with respect."
Source: Tampa Bay Online (3 November 2003)
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