Stories tagged mummies

Hot stuff: New testing on a fragment of King Tut's mummy reveals his remains caught fire after being entombed in his sarcophagus.
Hot stuff: New testing on a fragment of King Tut's mummy reveals his remains caught fire after being entombed in his sarcophagus.Courtesy Jon Bodsworth
We've documented the travails leading to the demise of young King Tut many times here on Science Buzz. But headlines today just add more fuel to the King Tut woe fire (so to speak). Tests done on a small fragment of Tut's mummy that is held in Great Britain show that his mummy caught fire. And that fire, researchers believe, occurred after Tut was mummified and entombed in his sarcophagus through spontaneous combustion from the mixture of embalming oils, wrapping fabric and oxygen. A virtual autopsy done as part of this research also concludes that Tut died from being run over by a chariot. All in all, not a very good day of news for young King Tut.

Egyptian archaeologists this week announced the discovery of nearly 30 mummies among 52 tombs in Lahun, a site about 75 miles south of Cairo. Click here to see samples of the new discoveries and learn why mummy coffins are decorated the ways they are.

Mar
18
2009

Rule like an Egyptian: This statue of Hatshepsut can be seen as at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She posed as a man to rule as an Egyptian pharaoh from  1479-1458 B.C.
Rule like an Egyptian: This statue of Hatshepsut can be seen as at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She posed as a man to rule as an Egyptian pharaoh from 1479-1458 B.C.Courtesy User:Postdlf
There were a lot of women trying to break the political glass ceiling last year. Think Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin. And while their efforts were noteworthy, they were far behind the curve when it came to female leadership of a great nation.

April's National Geographic has a huge profile on Hatshepsut, the female ruler of Egypt from 1479 to 1458 B.C. who actually took on the appearance of a man to be able to lead the nation. That story is amazing enough, but the National Geographic piece goes on to tell about all the modern science that was used on a random, anonymous mummy to pin-point that it was the remains of this famous Egyptian leader.

It's a great summary of a project I've been a part of in the past year. We've been creating an exhibit called "Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science." It will open Memorial Day time at COSI – a museum in Columbus, Ohio – and eventually travel here to SMM sometime on its six-year tour. A good portion of that exhibit will focus on how researchers can use modern technology – CT scanning and rapid prototyping to name two – to gather information on mummies without ever unwrapping them or doing physical damage to them.

If you're like a lot of people, you'll find ancient Egypt fascinating and want to check out this story on Hatshepsut or the Lost Egypt exhibit. Why do you think ancient Egyptian culture is so cool? Or what do you think of Hatshepsut's unique story? Share your thoughts here with other Buzz readers.

Archaeologists in Egypt have found made a massive find of mummies at an excavation near Saqqara. Read all the details of the find here.

While it has all the trappings of a campy daytime TV show, science will actually be work now that researchers have found two mummified fetuses in the tomb of King Tut. Read this to learn about how they'll be analyzed and what Egyptologists hope to learn from these discoveries.

What would the perfect museum artifact be? Maybe a mummified dinosaur. I know here at SMM to of our most popular exhibit areas are the dinos and our mummy. Well, paleontologists in Montana have uncovered a mummified dinosaur. A full video report is available here. The mummified duck-bill dino actually still has mummified food in its digestive tract and much of its skin left on, giving us much more solid information about dinosaur soft-tissue matters. The dinosaur, named Leonardo, goes on exhibit in Houston this fall.

Sep
04
2007

Accidental mummy: This mummy of Ignacia Aguilar, who may have been buried alive in Guanajuato, Mexico, is one of the huge collection of mummies being studied in the Mexican mountain city.
Accidental mummy: This mummy of Ignacia Aguilar, who may have been buried alive in Guanajuato, Mexico, is one of the huge collection of mummies being studied in the Mexican mountain city.
What were just regular burial customs in a Mexican mountain village more than 100 years ago are turning out to be some magnificent mummification techniques. A team of U.S. mummy experts have found some fascinating information while studying the mummies of Guanajuato, Mexico.

The mummies have been on display in a museum in that city for many years, but Guanajuato officials invited researchers from Texas State University and Quinnipiac University in Connecticut to come and take a closer look at what turned those dead bodies into mummies.

The mummies are of people who were buried in above ground crypts from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s. Local legend held that the bodies became mummified because the area’s water is rich in minerals and sulfur. In fact, Guanajuato is a mining area rich in precious metal and sulfur.

But the researchers are working on another angle for the cause of the mummies. They think that hot weather in the area warmed up the crypts and that heat dried out the bodies, causing the mummification process to take place. There are more than 100 mummies in the museum’s collection and the researchers have checked over about 20 specimens so far. The Guanajuato collection is believed to be the largest group of mummies anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

There are some interesting stories behind some of the mummies. In fact, the mummy collection was discovered due to one of the deceased’s not having paid all of his taxes. A French physician was dug up in 1865 because a burial tax had not been paid. When they opened the crypt, they found that the doctor had become mummified. More tombs were checked and by the late 1880s, a museum was opened to display the mummies.

Also found were specimens of a baby and fetus whose bodies appeared to have been opened up and then closed with sutures, indicating that some kind of treatment or autopsy had been done on them.

Information on the mummies has been collected using X-rays, measuring bones and also doing endoscopes. The current team of researchers are hoping to link up with DNA experts to do testing on hair samples of the mummies to learn even more.

Jul
30
2007

Not every mummy gets wooden toes: But, then again, not every mummy needs wooden toes.    (image by Stuck_in_Customs on flickr.com)
Not every mummy gets wooden toes: But, then again, not every mummy needs wooden toes. (image by Stuck_in_Customs on flickr.com)
Another exciting news item has emerged from the fast-paced field of human prosthetics, although on the other end of the chronological spectrum from my post last week. Archaeologists believe they may have found the world’s earliest functioning prosthetic limb (so far).

Found on the right foot of an Egyptian mummy, dating from somewhere between 1000 and 600 BC, the prosthesis is a wood and leather big toe. It is not, however, the first ancient Egyptian false toe – another was found near the end of the 19th century, and is probably nearly the same age. The “new” artifact, however, is “articulated and shows signs of wear,” and was found attached to the mummy of a 50-60 year old woman, whose amputation site appears to have healed. The other toe was made of something like papier-mâché, and may have been simply ornamental and not actually supposed to help with walking (something the Egyptians are famous for).

A researcher at the University of Manchester has created an exact replica of the ancient toe, and is recruiting volunteers who have lost their right big toes to test the prosthesis’ functionality.

The previous record holder for “most ancient prosthesis” was a Roman bronze leg, dating to about 300 BC. It was, however, destroyed during the bombing of London in WWII.

Scientists believe that before the invention of objects like these functioning prosthetics, humans who had lost limbs must have resorted to tying everyday items like rocks, flowers, or small animals to amputation sites. Finds like the Egyptian toe force archaeologists to reevaluate the ingenuity of our ancestors, and push those dark days further and further into the depths of the past.

For a picture of the actual ancient toe, check out this article

Archaeologists have discovered several new tombs near the pyramids of Saqqara. The tombs -- of doctors, dentists, scribes, and even a butler -- give a fuller picture of life in ancient Egypt.