Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mummy family

Three of the mummies in the Mummies of the World exhibit now at the California Science Center are a nuclear family - father, mother, and child. The bodies of Michael Orlovits, his wife Veronica, their son Johannes, and more than 200 0ther mummies were discovered in a long-forgotten church crypt in Vác, Hungary, in 1994. They had been naturally preserved by the cool, dry air of the crypt and the oil from the pine shavings that had lined their coffins. Their identities, ages, familial relationships were revealed in church records, but tests like CT scans, X-rays, radio carbon dating, MRI, mass spectrometry, isotope analysis, and DNA testing reveal additional biological details about their lives:

Michael was born in 1765, making him 245 years old. A miller by trade, he was laid out in his Sunday best - and it was not until his body was shifted for the CT scan that it was discovered that a metal cross had been tucked inside those clothes. Michael had a broken leg that hadn't healed completely at the time of his death, and his wife Veronica, who was born in 1770, was found to be severely tubercular. Their son Johannes had been born in 1800 and was one of their 4 children, all of whom died before the age of 3.

Dr. Heather Gill-Frerking of the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum (pictured with the mummies) calls CT scanning and other non-invasive techniques "the gold standard in studying mummies."

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