Courtesy Mark RyanSummer is coming. Do you need help fitting into that swimsuit or other short, summer clothes? Then try the chicken mummy weight loss program. Call 1-800-CHICKEN-MUMMY and for the low, low price of $19.95 you can learn the ancient secrets of how to lose half of your body weight in just 33 days!!!!!
Okay, we’re really not encouraging anyone to wrap their body in natron (that combination of salts used inside and outside of organisms you want to mummify) for a month to loss major amounts of weight in one month’s time. But that’s exactly what has happened to Nefertweety, the chicken we are mummifying here at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
With this week's check of the bird, we brought a scale to measure the impact of what a month's worth of mummification work has done to the bird. The 3.5-pound fresh, store-bought chicken we had at the start of the process has now reduced down to 1.75 pounds. And she appears to be flattening out even more.
Courtesy Mark RyanWhen we greeted Nefertweety today, her smell was not as noticeable as it has been in the past, but it’s still there. Less smell means we're getting close of the end of the mummification work. Poking around, it appears that some of the, um, rear tissues are still being slow to mummify. That darn chicken butt just doesn’t want to mummify. (BTW: I believe the last time I said the words “chicken butt” in succession was in fourth grade.)
We’re going to give Nefertweety another week to finally work through her final mummification issues and hopefully have a fully mummified bird next Tuesday. You can learn more about this whole project by following this link to our Making a Minnesota Mummy section of the Buzz, including how to mummify your own chicken at home.
The Science Museum's mummy will be taking a little trip to Children's Hospital tomorrow afternoon to undergo a CT scan. We hope to come away from the scan with a 3D model of the mummy’s inner workings and new clues that reveal more details about his life, a more precise age and cause of death. The results will be developed into new interpretative tools that will make their debut in the months leading up to the opening of the King Tut exhibition.
Thanks to the cooperation of Ed Fleming, our collections services staff and the staff at Children's, we've been granted permission to invite media to photograph the mummy as he's prepped for scanning tomorrow. He's become quite a sensation already, with more to come:
WCCO-AM will also be airing an interview with Ed Fleming about the project during news breaks today and tomorrow.
Courtesy WikimediaMummification sounds like a lot of work. You have to carefully remove organs, cover and pack the body with salt (natron), dry and wrap each organ, wait 40 days, then do what you can to make the resulting dried-out corpse smell somewhat tolerable…then there’s that whole wrapping process. Whew! There’s got to be an easier way! If only there was a hands-free way to mummify people, like Ron Popeil’s “Set it and forget it” Showtime Rotisserie. Luckily there is! Nature does a wonderful job of mummifying people and animals. Environmental conditions such as extreme cold, salinity (saltiness), acidity, and aridity (dryness) can all result in natural mummification. This is the case with bog bodies. Bog bodies are… well… bodies found in bogs. But not just any bogs, bogs where a combination of acidic water, cold temperatures, and lack of oxygen are enough to preserve the tissue, essentially pickling the body. So this type of mummification occurs in damp/wet conditions, but another way in which nature preserves human and animal tissue is through extreme cold and dry conditions. There are mummies found in Peru and Chile from the Inca period that were preserved this way. Certain young girls from the Inca Empire were sacrificed and placed at the summits of mountains in the Andes. Some archaeologists believe this was part of a ritual honoring Apus, the Inca mountain god. The cold, dry conditions on these summits desiccated the bodies and maintained the hair, blood, and in some cases even the contents of the stomach!
Courtesy wikimediaAlthough not really considered “mummies” (because they are not living organisms), objects can be “mummified” or preserved in this manner as well. The case of the Dead Sea Scrolls is an example. The scrolls are made of papyrus as well as animal skins, and were found in caves on the northwest shores of the Dead Sea, near Qumran. The average annual rainfall for this region is about 3 inches (Minnesota averages 26 inches and our driest state, Nevada, averages about 8 inches), and the average summer temperatures range from 90-102°F. These extreme conditions were major factors that contributed to the preservation of the scrolls for 2,000 years! It’s amazing what setting it and forgetting it can do. Not only can it result in the best rotisserie chicken you’ve ever had in your life, but also in preserving history. So the next time you have to make that all too common decision about how to mummify something, just remember there’s the hard way and then there’s nature’s way.
Check it out! There's this site with high resolution images of Otzi the Iceman. Here: http://www.icemanphotoscan.eu/
You can zoom in on the mummy, check out his tattoos under white and UV light, and look at a bunch of 3d photos of him (if you've got some blue and red glasses ready. I did, for some reason.)
It's pretty cool, so go check it out. Be aware though: you will be looking at pictures of a naked dead man, who is thousands of years old. Otzi has lost those particular parts that make a man most naked, but still, consider yourself warned.
From all the posts I do about ancient Egypt, can you tell I'm involved in developing an exhibit on Egypt? Here's a pretty cool interactive computer game where you get to explore the secret chambers of an ancient Egyptian tomb. Can you figure out who's buried there? Also, here's a link to an article examining the history of curses associated with those who go into mummy tombs. Don't worry, playing this game shouldn't make you vulnerable to the curse.
Courtesy SebiDig around in Egypt and you’ll never know what you’ll find. Archaeologists there have been poking around the huge tomb of Seti I, the largest known tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, only to discover that it’s 100 feet longer than originally thought.
Seni I’s tomb was first discovered in 1817 and the burial chamber measured a whopping 328 feet long, about the length of a football field. Through the newly unearthed secret passages, an additional 100 feet of the tomb has now been discovered. And there could be more.
But in this new 100 feet of tomb space and tunnels, archaeologists have found more tomb wall art and other funerary artifacts. And there could be additional tunnels to discover branching off from these new passages.
An all-Egyptian team of archaeologists made this latest discovery. And they’ll keep on working in the Valley of the Kings. Graffiti found on walls of other tombs in the area state that there are nearby tombs for pharaohs Ramses VIII and Merenptah.
The mummified face of ancient Egypt's famous King Tut is being put on public display for the first time since its discovery more than 80 years ago. The grave of Tutankhamun, uncovered by Howard Carter in 1922, held an incredible array of treasures that continues to captivate the public. Artifacts from Tut's tomb are presently on tour (for the second time) and will open in London later this month and in Dallas next year. Although, the boy king's body will remain in Luxor, Egypt's Valley of the Kings, you can watch a very interesting video of it being transferred from his sarcophagus to a climate-controlled display case here.
The body of Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt from 1479 to 1458 BC, has been missing for centuries. Her successor and step-son, Thutmose III, wanted to erase all evidence of her reign, and her body was not interred in any of the elaborate graves built for other rulers.
But now her remains have been identified. A relic box marked with the queen’s insignia was found to contain a broken tooth. And a CAT scan done on an unidentified mummy showed that the tooth matched perfectly. Ongoing DNA tests seem to indicate that the mummy is a member of the royal family.
The kicker is that this mummy was found in 1903. But because it was just lying on the ground of a tomb, no one knew who it was, and everyone assumed it was no one important. Which just goes to show -- even for the dead, appearances can be deceiving.
Imagine how much we could learn if instead of only bones, we could find a dinosaur body. Nate Murphy, curator of paleontology at the Judith River Dinosaur Institute, along with 20 experts in various fields are X-raying and photographing a dinosaur named Leonardo this week. In October, Murphy plans to present his findings at a medical imaging conference in Houston.
Leonardo is a 77-million-year-old fossilized mummy of a duck billed dinosaur known as a brachylophosaur. Since the mummy is now stone, it had to be removed in one, world record sized, 6.5 ton chunk. Leonardo's stomach contents are so well-preserved that researchers can tell what he had for his last supper; a salad of ferns, conifers, and magnolias. The stomach also contained the pollen of more than 40 different plants. The scientific work on Leonardo will keep paleontologists occupied for years. Murphy hopes the studies will build interest and funding for more tests — particularly CT scans that could take three-dimensional images instead of the one-dimensional pictures captured in the X-rays this week.
Until now, the technology didn't exist to look at what was inside of Leonardo. Over the next 20 months, the Discovery Channel is filming how non-destructive x-rays combined with imaging technology from Eastman Kodak that is 10 times as sensitive as film, and a computer that sifts through the layers of data will reveal skin and bone and Leonardo's insides. Here is a Discovery Channel video about Leonardo.
Here at the Science Museum of Minnesota we used X-ray imaging to look inside our mummy. You can see where the heart has been relocated. Our mummy is in Collections Gallery on the fourth floor.