In 1949, an earthquake rumbled through the city of Guano, Ecuador, rattling the walls of a 16th-century convent until they cracked open. Afterward, someone eventually discovered that the facades had split – and some things hid between them. They first found the mummy of a rat and then, a human mummy.
The mummy emerged miraculously well-preserved, even though it had spent over 400 years resting between the walls. Fortunately, its placement had kept it protected from the insects that would have hastened decomposition. And, decades later, this preservation would prove pivotal to scientists, who realized the remains could be a huge clue in the realm of medical research.
That’s because scientists quickly realized that the mummy’s mangled toes and fingers actually showed signs of deformity. Indeed, the 400-year-old body had the tell-tale signifiers of arthritis in his hands and feet. And experts hoped that his ancient joints could help them cure the disease in modern times.