This week will go in the diary as Mummy Week – we have doubled our cache of experimental animal mummies to a grand total of 10! This is largely due to a number of friends who have either pointed me in the right direction of dead animals in their gardens, or have collected them for me and donated them to the cause. I am sure I am developing quite a name for myself as the ‘odd friend’ who keeps asking for dead things via social media and being surreptitiously handed freezer bags full of ‘goodies’ at the school gates!
I have been fortunate to have an extra pair of hands in the lab this week to help with the experiments in the form of work experience student, Alana Parker, who has been invaluable. Thanks also to my colleague, Tom, who photographed one session for me – resin covered gloves and a camera are not a wise combination!
Our experimental candidates this week have been part of our ‘unidentified’ series, mummified with a view to assessing the likelihood of determining a positive identification using radiography. These were either ‘fresh’ birds killed by pet cats, small insectivores, feather bundles and one largely decomposed large bird complete with a resident population of maggots! It has to be said that they were not very fragrant so it remains to be seen whether the process is successful; however, through our work on the ancient mummies, I am fairly convinced that many mummies were made from less-than-savoury offerings found pre-deceased in sacred areas. These experiments form a crucial part of the Leverhulme funded project, in helping to increase the potential of morphometric studies suing radiographic imaging. Photographs were taken prior to the mummification and radiographs will be obtained in around 6 months when the bodies have desiccated.
All five experiments have used the same resin-beeswax mixture as the first five to maintain a fixed variable. I introduced the use of an organic soil matrix and sand to a couple of bundles in an attempt to see whether these look like the ancient ones when we come to radiograph them. I am looking forward to seeing their progress and hoping that they really can help to aid our interpretation of the ancient mummified animal remains.