Unusual-ology: Ten Year Old Boy Finds ‘Egyptian Mummy’ In Grandmothers Attic.

Alexander Kettler, a ten year old boy from Diepholz in northern Germany, had a startling discovery in his grandmother’s attic when he stumbled upon what appears to be an Egyptian mummy in a mysterious wooden chest. The wooden box, which is covered in ancient hieroglyphs, was apparently bought in Africa around during the 1950’s by his late grandfather. But this Egyptian mummy isn’t all he found in the wooden chest. The chest also contained a death mask and a canopic jar, where the organs removed during the mummification process are stored.

Image

Image of the suspected Egyptian mummy in the hieroglyph covered sarcophagus.

The boy’s father now plans to take the mysterious box to Berlin to get it examined by experts to see whether this is a genuine mummy or a fake. He believes that the sarcophagus and jar are fake but the mummy might prove to be the real deal as it’s not “something you could buy at a shop around the corner”.

If the mummy is sent off for verification it will be subjected to MRI and CT scans, which may come back negative as mummies tend to be so dehydrated that there is a lack of hydrogen atoms – which the scans rely on. The use of carbon dating will be fundamental in identifying whether this is a true Egyptian mummy or a fake.

There are lots of problems occurring in the archaeological world, from fake mummies or mummies being wrongly labelled as something there not. One such example is my Unusual-ology post focusing on the topic of a lecture I had during my undergraduate degree. The lecture explored the past of a decapitated head which had preserved soft tissue, that was on display in a Wiccan and witchcraft museum under the guise of an execution victim, which was later stored in a decorated wooden box in a Church.

References:

BBC. 2013. German boy finds ‘a mummy’ in grandmother’s attic. BBC News. Available here. 

Daily Mail. Mummy there’s a mummy in grandma’s attic! Boy discovers ‘Egyptian body’ inside an old wooden chest. Available here. 

If you’ve enjoyed this new ‘Unsual-ology’ post feature – leave a comment or a like!

If you want to read more unusual science posts click here, or to read the Unusual-ology post on the Ancient Egyptian use of lettuce as an aphrodisiac, click here. Or to read about the newly discovered ‘Entrance to Hell’ click here!

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500yr Old Inca Child Mummies Found Drugged.

Archaeologists have found three Inca child mummies dating back to 500yrs on the top of the 22,000ft summit of the Mount Llullaillco volcano in Argentina. One of the mummies found is that of a thirteen year old girl, now dubbed as the ‘Llullaillaco Maiden’, the other two mummies are that of a boy and a girl aged around four years old. The mummy of Llullaillaco Maiden is remarkably preserved whereas the remains of the boy and the girl were struck by lightning and so are charred.

The thirteen year old Llullaillco Maiden mummy which was discovered on top of a 22,000ft mountain in Argentina. Photo © Johan Reinhard.

The thirteen year old Llullaillco Maiden mummy which was discovered on top of a 22,000ft mountain in Argentina. Photo © Johan Reinhard.

The mummies were found separately entombed within a shrine, and were originally discovered in 1993 by Dr Andrew Wilson and his team of archaeologists from Bradford University. But it’s the recent findings that have spurred them into the news. The team of archaeologists analysed strands of the three mummies’ hair and discovered that in their later years they were drugged with beer and cocaine. As the Llullaillco Maiden’s hair was so long, with a centimetre of hair growth estimated per month, it allowed for an analysis that compared the alcohol and cocaine consumption during her last 21 months of life. An axial radiograph also showed that a coca leaf was held between the Llullaillco Maiden’s teeth. It is thought that she was fed the coca to subdue her during the Inca rituals.

Axial radiograph of the thirteen year old mummie, shown highlighted in green is the coca leaf.

Axial radiograph of the thirteen year old mummie, shown highlighted in green is the coca leaf.

It is thought that according to Inca beliefs, the children served as guardians over their villages from the heights of the mountains. Capacocha was a ritual in which local lords were required to select unblemished children (representing the ideal human perfection), who were then married and returned to their original communities where they were honoured before being sacrificed to the mountain gods. The ritual of capacocha took place upon the death of an Inca king.

The mummies now reside in the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña (MAAM) in Salta, Argentina.

References:

Daily Mail. 2013. Drugged with beer and cocaine and left to freeze to death, 500-year-old mummies of sacrificed Inca children reveal their secrets. Mail Online. Available here. 

National Geographic. 2013. Inca Child Sacrifice Victims Were Drugged. National Geographic Daily News. Available here. 

Wilson, A., Taylor, T., Ceruti, M. C., Chavez, J.A., Reinhard, J., Grimes, V., Meier-Augenstien, W., Cartmell, L., Stern, B., Richards, M.P., Worobey, M., Barnes, I., Gilbert, M.T. 2007. Stable isotope and DNA evidence for Ritual Sequences in Inca Child Sacrifice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sicences of the United States of America. 104, 42. Pg 16456-16461. Available here. 

Unusual-ology: How to get A-Head in Medieval England.

 This is a recap of lecture which I attended during my degree. It focused on an extremely weird case study which the lecturer had been presented with, a skull which had preserved soft tissue with ‘links to medieval witchcraft’. 

Within this lecture we were presented with a case study of a skull which had preserved soft tissue. The lecturer talked about how he had stumbled on this rare artefact in a peculiar museum which dealt in Wiccan and witchcraft. There it had a story allocated to it to entice an audience and raise curiosity.

This story was of medieval origins where brutal executions took place. This skull belonging to an execution victim was stored in a Church inside a wooden box covered in numerous markings of figures in communal scenes; these figures are depictions of ‘Green Men’. Intrigued by these mysterious figures and why they appeared on a wooden box along with scrape marks, I decided to do some research of my own. I found that ‘Green Men’ are deities of nature Gods which are often found within Churches and a symbol of pre-Christian religions often in Pagan origin. Could this skull have been kept as a relic? Does it belong to an important figure from medieval times? But after the War was it stolen from the Church and sold onto this museum?

What was peculiar about it was the preserved tissue only found on bodies in extreme conditions such as heat or cold or bodies submerged in bogs. The initial thought was “Could this marvellous story be true? It is a modern day fake, or is it something totally different? Or is it actually a mummy?”

What first stood out was that the skull had remains of eyes which mummies do not possess at the time of burial. Also from examining the skull and comparing the skulls to known parameters it was discovered to be the skull of a 35 to 45 year old woman. More tests were run using modern day technology such as MRI scans and CT scans, the MRI scan failed to show anything due to the lack of hydrogen atoms within the skull due to the dehydrated state it has deteriorated to. But there were surprising results from the CT scan which showed that there was a grey area in the back of the skull, could this be preserved brain? It turned out it was actually tree sap, which backs up the theory that this skull is actually a mummy. Egyptians used pine resin to preserve the bodies as its more ‘sacred’ than glue. There was also evidence that the septum of the skull had been broken by something, which is common in the procedure for mummification. To get a definitive answer to this riddle the final step was to use carbon dating; this helped determine that the skull is in fact a mummy and not a medieval relic or execution victim.

The use of all these modern technologies, theories and knowledge gained from previous case studies helped shine a light on the true origins of this skull. Other artefacts have been found to be something they’re not and are now being traced back to their true beginnings and having a new story assigned to them, for the future generations to be marvelled just as I was during this riveting lecture.

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