Oldest Lice Combs in the Americas Found in Chile

Shaunacy Ferro
Bernardo Arriaza
Bernardo Arriaza / Bernardo Arriaza

Lice have been plaguing humans for eternity. The pests have been found stuck in the hair of mummies dating back thousands of years, and scientists hypothesize that they accompanied humans on their migration out of Africa. Now, archaeologists have uncovered evidence that pre-Columbian peoples were using combs to delouse themselves as far back as 800 years ago. 

A group of researchers discovered combs with microscopic evidence of lice and nits estimated to be 240 to 800 years old in northern Chile. This is the oldest evidence of lice combs found in the Americas, though not in the world (evidence of nits has been found in combs from ancient Egypt [PDF]). The research is published in Chungara, Revista de Antropología Chilena (The Journal of Chilean Anthropology).

The combs have small, close-together teeth made of reeds that would have been used to pick lice and nits out of the hair. The researchers believe they were made to deal with a particularly bad outbreak of the scalp scavengers.

[h/t: Scientific American]