Today we attended the UKAS 2013 conference at the University of Cardiff. Amongst the presentations were some really interesting studies on the decay rates of wood and bone at Star Carr and results of molecular analysis on resins from British Roman burials.
Our own research on experimental avian mummification was also presented. It is widely reported (and also widely accepted) that animals were eviscerated during the embalming process to prevent putrefaction and enable a better state of preservation to be achieved. During our radiographic studies on ancient mummified animals, we have seen many examples where ‘shadows’ or radio-dense areas are visible in the abdominal areas indicating that visceral contents were not always removed.
EM1, the name given to our first bird mummy, was treated with a simple resin and beeswax mixture and wrapped in linen. So far, 133 days later, EM1 remains in a stable condition. Radiographs taken 60 days post mummification, reveal that she is losing muscle mass and that the contents of her abdomen are desiccating slowly.
We hope to publish the results of this experiment during 2013 so watch this space! We have further plans to conduct more experimental mummification in the near future.
We would like to thank the organisers for their efforts in making everyone feel so welcome and on a successful conference.