Archaeological Documentation of the Atmospheric Pollution in Antiquity

Luigi Capasso

Abstract


Authors examines the paleopathologic evidences of the atmosferic pollu-tion in ancient time, point out the attention on two principal findings: pulmonar anthracosis and lead exposure. Pulmonar anthracosis is pre-sent in many mummified bodies and was due to the deposition on the pul-monar alveoli of carbon particles coming from the combustion of oils or vegetables for illumination, cooking or heating. Lead atmosferic pollution was very high between V century B.C. and III century A.D. in the North emisphere, in consequence to the impressive quantity of lead produced by Greek and Roman metallurgic technology (perhaps 80,000 metric tons per year around the start of I century AD). Cumulative lead fallout to the Greenland Ice Sheet during these eight centuries was as high as 15 percent of that caused by the massive use of lead alkyl additives in gasoline since the 1930s. Finally, the high atmosferic lead concentration caused a high exposure of humans to the lead: in fact paleopathologists, have clarely demonstrated a high quantity of lead concentration in the human bone dated to the period between III century B.C. and VI century AD circa. 

 

Key words: Paleonthology - Antiquity - Atmospheric pollution 


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