Mummies in Germany

More than 1000 mummies are currently stored in German churches - and many of these bodies are surrounded by their very own mysteries. According to one legend, Caroline Louise von Schönberg (see uppermost picture) had to be tied to her coffin because was still alive during her own burial and began knocking onto the lid. In order to avoid further “disturbances”, Caroline’s children, who had already divided up the inheritance, tied her up and had her buried alive. 


Rosalia Lombardo died in 1920, when she was just two years old. Her tiny body in perfectly preserved in the Capuchin convent in Palermo, Sicily, and she is thought to be one of the best preserved mummies in the world. Strangely, sometimes she can be seen to open and close her eyes as if she were awakening from a long sleep. Many witnesses are convinced that this is evidence of the paranormal, others say it is an optical illusions caused by light passing over her. Regardless, it is enough to give anyone the creeps!

8 Million Dog Mummies Found in 'God of Death' Mass Grave

In ancient Egypt, so many people worshiped Anubis, the jackal-headed god of death, that the catacombs next to his sacred temple once held nearly 8 million mummified puppies and grown dogs, a new study finds.

The catacomb ceiling also contains the fossil of an ancient sea monster, a marine vertebrate that’s more than 48 million years old, but it’s unclear whether the Egyptians noticed the existence of the fossil when they built the tomb for the canine mummies, the researchers said.

Many of the mummies have since disintegrated or been disrupted by grave robbers and industrialists, who likely used the mummies for fertilizer. Even so, archaeologists have found enough evidence to suggest that the Anubis animal cult was a large part of the ancient Egyptian economy. Read more.


How Studying Mummies Could Cure Modern Diseases

By comparing diseases from then and now, researchers can learn how they spread. Maybe they can learn how to stop them, too.

Earlier this year, scientists published a study of whole-body CT scans of 137 mummies: ancient Egyptians and Peruvians, ancestral Puebloans of southwest America, and Unangan hunter-gatherers of the Aleutian Islands. They reported signs of athero­sclerosis—a dangerous artery hardening that can lead to heart attacks or stroke—in 34 percent of them. What struck the research team, led by Randall Thompson of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, was that it afflicted mummies from every group. Frank Rühli, head of the Swiss Mummy Project at the University of Zurich, also sees the condition in about 30 to 50 percent of the adult specimens he studies. The breadth of these findings suggests that atherosclerosis today may have less to do with modern excesses such as overeating and more with underlying genetic factors that seem present in a certain percentage of humans living almost anywhere in the world. Someday, identifying those genes could lead to new drugs for heart disease.

Ancient mummies can provide a wealth of information about the health of early civilizations, which may help us better treat diseases today. But because mummies are both rare and delicate, researchers have been limited in what they could do to them—and therefore what they could learn from them. Recent improvements of two medical tools—DNA sequencing, which can reveal microbial infections, and CT scanning—are letting paleopathologists diagnose mummies’ causes of death in detail. They’re now finding signs of everything from prostate cancer to malaria in mummies across the globe. By comparing the ancient forms of those diseases with their contemporary equivalents, researchers can learn how those diseases evolved, what makes them so harmful, and—possibly—how to stop them.

In the case of tuberculosis (TB), which kills upwards of 1.4 million people a year, researchers are using DNA sequencing and CT scans in mummies to understand what conditions TB thrives in and how to treat it. Work from Haagen Klaus, a biological anthropologist at George Mason University, suggests that, contrary to what some experts think, Europeans might have brought a particularly deadly form of TB to the Americas. His preliminary DNA data hints that Peruvian remains dating back to the 10th century—before Spanish explorers arrived—might have been infected with a more benign strain of the TB bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or a different species altogether, Mycobacterium kansasii. And many studies have shown that the bodies of Central Americans from before and after European contact rarely, if ever, show signs of TB symptoms. Klaus subscribes to the hypothesis that this may be because M. tuberculosis thrives in the presence of iron, and these people ate a low-iron diet with little meat. If true, this insight could point to new drugs that would inhibit M. tuberculosis from taking up iron.

Other scientists are using DNA sequencing to investigate Chagas disease, an illness caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which can cause fatal heart failure or swelling of digestive system organs. The parasite infects roughly 10 million people, mostly in Latin America, and appears to be spreading. Some think that different strains of the parasite affect different organs. So in 2008, when Ana Carolina Vicente and Ana Jansen of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro reported their discovery of T. cruzi in the enlarged colon of a 560-year-old mummified body from Brazil, they might have come upon an important clue. Previously, they found T. cruzi in a sample of bone remains from 4,500 to 7,000 years ago. Comparing the DNA of different samples of the parasite could reveal more about its evolution and spread, and perhaps influence treatment someday.

Paleopathologists are also taking advantage of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which detects signals from water. Dry mummies haven’t been perfect for this technique, but recent improvements in MRI might make for better images of soft tissues, such as tongues. Plus, unlike the radiation from CT scanning, MRI has no possible risk of damaging DNA evidence.


500 year old, nearly perfectly preserved Incan girl - Imgur

Forgot this happened a while back. It’s crazy enough when people find near-perfect wooly mammoths or even a preserved moa claw, it’s super creepy when a nearly perfectly preserved person is found, a young girl at that.

But when you think about this from an archeological perspective, this is a freaking amazing discovery. There is SO much here scientists just wouldn’t see if they had found only a skeleton, such as nose shape, a big “if” when it comes to reconstructing faces using only skulls. Another is that her hair is in loads of thin, pretty braids, and the shape of her eyebrows can be seen too. And because she is so well-preserved, an autopsy can tell what was the last thing she ate before she died, and if she had been suffering from any diseases (she did in this case: she was fighting a bacterial lung infection) which might have been the cause of death. Her cause of death though was being sacrificed in a ceremonial ritual. But even finding evidence of a disease in such a preserved mummy can be an incredible find because then you can take samples and compare how that disease has evolved over time and track its migratory pattern.

So super fucking creepy, but in its own way too, super fucking cool. You can read more here.