This is Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Cynthia Graber. Got a minute?
Mummies. They're the stuff of horror movies and happy archaeologists.
Now the American Association of Anatomists have turned their attention to mummies,
they've devoted the entire latest issue of their journal, The Anatomical Record, to the subject.
Papers in the edition cover topics such as the bog bodies of northern Europe, the intestinal contents of a Korean mummy, a case study for an Egyptian mummy with a prosthetic toe, and a code of ethics for research with ancient human remains.
Most mummy research is done on actual discovered remains, but some investigations try to reconstruct mummification techniques to figure out just how ancient peoples did it.
For example, in 1994 researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore attempted to recreate Egyptian mummification, using a donated cadaver.
In a paper in the new mummy issue, scientists conducted a variety of scans on that cadaver to see if they could figure out the process without asking the researchers who did the 1994 work.
They determined that the body was male, likely elderly, and probably a modern professional in the "middle or elite social class."
The authors also describe the incisions and the embalming materials that they could ascertain from the scans.
They then took the results to the original embalmers, who deemed their findings to be largely correct.
These kinds of comparisons provide a method to test the accuracy of our evaluation of mummies.
Because many of the secrets of the ancient Egyptian embalmers are, as has been said, lost in the sands of time.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Cynthia Graber.