Is this the beginning of the Zombie apocalypse, as this unknown microbe re-emerges from its millennium and a half slumber to destroy mankind? No? Well it’s an interesting story none the less. This is from i09.com.
“Close to 1,500 years ago, Indians living in what is now Quito, Ecuador buried their most revered dead in 16-meter-deep tombs. An ancient alcoholic beverage was commonly included in these burial vaults. Now, by examining the clay vessels used to ferment and store this brew, a team of South American researchers has managed to not only recover the microbes the Indians used to ferment the ancient beverage, they’ve actually revived them…and they’re unlike any species they’ve ever seen.
“Between 200 and 800 AD, Indian settlements thrived along the shores of a large, marshy lake that today is covered by Quito International Airport. When building crews first began surveying the area for the airport’s construction, they discovered a number of gaping ancient tombs, similar to the one pictured up top. Each tomb was about 16 meters deep, contained roughly 20 carefully prepared bodies (recreated in this image), and was filled with clay pots — some of which were used to ferment an alcoholic beverage known as chichi.
“It was the fermentation vessels that attracted Javier Carvajal Barriga, a yeast biologist at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito. According to Scientific American.
“ Under the sterile conditions of his laboratory, [Carvajal] scratched away the surface layers from inside the fermentation vessels hoping to collect yeast trapped deep in the pottery’s pores. Using a special method that he devised to humidify the desiccated cells, repair their damaged membranes, and jump-start their arrested metabolisms, he coaxed a community of yeasts, which had lain dormant in the entombed vessels since A.D. 680, back to life.”
Now I’m a fan of all those stories where the frozen beast is woken up to wreak havoc on the modern world, so maybe my usually logical brain has been influenced. However there could be real danger in this sort of science. I’m not sure if any of you have read that the Russians have reached the fresh water of Lake Vostock in the Antarctic. But my first reaction to this was OMG Their going to release “The Thing”. Am I the only one?
Of course life is seldom as exciting as the pages of a good book or movie but who’s to say there isn’t a forgotten strain of smallpox or other such nasty lurking down there in the caves and frozen wastes of this planet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a second that we cease all this essential archaeology and scientific work. I’m just suggesting that we should be very cautious.
(More on the Lake Vostock story can be found here; http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/08/russians_drill_to_lake_vostok/)
Let us know what you think.
For Sci-Fi Surplus, I’m John