Known as the Lady of the Two Lands, Henut Taui was mummified and enclosed in a desert tomb three thousand years ago in ancient Egypt. In 1992, samples of her remains were tested in a Munich laboratory. Curiously, traces of both tobacco and cocaine were present in these samples.
Neither plant could be found in the region for at least 1,000 years following the ancient civilization's demise. Understandably, Egyptologists and other experts looked upon these findings with great skepticism. The Mystery of the Cocaine Mummies explores these confounding results and seeks any possible explanation.
When renowned toxicologist Dr. Svetla Balabanova first tested the remains, she was stupefied by the results as well. Were the samples manipulated by accidental contamination? Did her lab equipment malfunction in some way? Or was the mummy itself potentially fraudulent? Seeking to address some of these concerns, she conducted additional tests on the mummy's hair shafts only to receive the same results. This provided irrefutable confirmation of her initial findings. Meanwhile, more than 500 miles away at the Natural History Museum in Paris, Dr. Michelle Lescot also found traces of tobacco in the mummified remains of Ramses II.
The film follows the intense investigations which ensued following the publications of these findings. It's an undeniably engrossing and multi-faceted journey that spans several continents.
Along the way, the filmmakers explore the rituals and superstitions of ancient Egyptians, and the process by which their remains were mummified. Viewers also learn about a long-thriving underground industry that deals in the trading of mummified limbs and other body parts.
Calling upon the expertise of anthropologists and historians from the finest universities in the world, The Mystery of the Cocaine Mummies wallows in minutiae - from the trading policies of ancient Egyptians to their belief that many ills could be cured from ingesting the ground flesh of the dead. Every bit of it is fascinating.
Unbeknownst to both Drs. Balabanova and Lescot, their discoveries had the potential to shake up and redefine history. The film shows the lengths taken by the scientific community to scrutinize each new piece of evidence before confirming or rejecting their inclusion in the official narrative.