The Swiss Mummy Project Wraps Up Current Experiment

   Posted by: Keith Payne   

Categories: Egypt in the News, Mummies

smp-tabThe University of Zurich’s Swiss Mummy Project, headed by anatomist and paleopathologist Dr. Frank Ruhli , has succeeded in mummifying a human leg.  Well, two legs, actually.  Ok, to be honest, the test subject didn’t go so well, so I guess it was one leg after all. 




Source article:  Discovery News, Body Part Mummified With Egyptian Recipe

The good leg (the one that didn’t rot) was mummified using techniques that Egyptologists believe the ancient Egyptian priests used themselves.  The other leg, which served as a control subject, was dried out in an oven that reproduced the natural conditions of the Egyptian desert.  It didn’t last a week before decomposition set in. 

(Note to self—do not spend Thanksgiving at the University of Zurich this year.)

The Swiss Mummy Project’s experiment, which builds on the work done by American scientists Ronald Wade and Bob Brier back in 1994, utilized the same tools which the ancients themselves would have used.  The primary ingredient, natron, is a compound of four different kinds of salts—sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, sodium carbonate, and sodium bicarbonate—and is found in natural deposits along the banks of the Nile River.  Natron is a drying agent which also has natural antibacterial properties, which makes it perfect for preserving organic material.

The work conducted by Dr. Wade and Dr. Brier involved mummifying an entire human cadaver, but the Swiss project was more focused and didn’t require as much material. 

“We are trying to improve on that important experiment using the most up-to-date methods, such as radiological technology, magnetic resonance imaging and computer tomography. It’s a unique project, the first of its kind,” Ruhli told Discovery News.  (source)

dna-tabDr. Ruhli is also focusing on the effects of mummification on DNA, which could have important implications for the current efforts to trace Tutankhamun’s family tree, and ultimately map out the genealogy of the Eighteenth Dynasty.  The Egyptology community is currently awaiting word from Dr. Zahi Hawass of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities regarding DNA analysis conducted on a mummified fetus recovered from Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, and which could help in identifying the mummy of his wife, Ankhesenamun, his parents, even Queen Nefertiti  (For more details read Zahi Hawass to Announce Results of DNA Tests this Fall).

The work of the Swiss Mummy Project continues, as does the work of Mr. Mummies, Bob Brier.  Dr. Brier, incidentally, is also Jean-Pierre Houdin’s co-author with The Secret of the Great Pyramid (just released in paperback.  Jean-Pierre’s work is currently being explored here at Em Hotep!, with the long-awaited Hemienu to Houdin Part One due out in mere hours.  Really.  Honest.  Check back later today and see!

For the original Em Hotep! article on this project, read The Swiss Mummy Project Puts its Best Foot Forward.



Copyright by Keith Payne, 2009.  All rights reserved.



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This entry was posted on Friday, October 16th, 2009 at 1:10 am and is filed under Egypt in the News, Mummies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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