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  • Originally published 08/02/2013

    German boy finds mummy in attic

    Last week 10-year-old Alexander Kettler was playing in the attic of his grandmother's house in the northern German state of Lower Saxony when he came upon three mysterious cases in a cluttered corner. Neither his grandmother nor his father, a local dentist named Lutz Wolfgang Kettler, knew what was inside. So they hauled the dust-covered cases out of the attic, pried them open and peered inside with amazement."There was a huge sarcophagus and inside a mummy," said Lutz Wolfgang Kettler. "Then we opened the other cases and found an earthenware Egyptian death mask and a Canopic Jar," he added, referring to a container in which the ancient Egyptians kept the entrails of the deceased who had been mummified.As to the question of how the 1.6-meter (5.2-foot) mummy could have gotten to the small town of Diepholz, Kettler can only speculate. His father, who passed away 12 years ago, went traveling through North Africa in the 1950s, but spoke very little of his travels. "He was of the older generation who experienced a lot in the war and didn't really talk about anything. I do seem to remember him mentioning having been to the city of Derna in Libya," says Kettler. Had Kettler's father purchased the sarcophagus on his trip, it would have been possible for him to ship it to Diepholz via Bremerhaven....

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Inca mummies: Child sacrifice victims fed drugs and alcohol

    Scientists have revealed that drugs and alcohol played a key part in the months and weeks leading up to the children's deaths.Tests on one of the children, a teenage girl, suggest that she was heavily sedated just before her demise....The mummified remains were discovered in 1999, entombed in a shrine near the summit of the 6,739m-high Llullaillaco volcano in Argentina.Three children were buried there: a 13-year-old girl, and a younger boy and girl, thought to be about four or five years old.Their remains date to about 500 years ago, during the time of the Inca empire, which dominated South America until the Europeans arrived at the end of the 15th Century....

  • Originally published 06/11/2013

    Ötzi the Iceman suffered head injury

    Ötzi the Iceman, Europe's oldest mummy, likely suffered a head injury before he died roughly 5,300 years ago, according to a new protein analysis of his brain tissue.Ever since a pair of hikers stumbled upon his astonishingly well-preserved frozen body in the Alps in 1991, Ötzi has become one of the most-studied ancient human specimens. His face, last meal, clothing and genome have been reconstructed — all contributing to a picture of Ötzi as a 45-year-old, hide-wearing, tattooed agriculturalist who was a native of Central Europe and suffered from heart disease, joint pain, tooth decay and probably Lyme disease before he died.None of those conditions, however, directly led to his demise. A wound reveals Ötzi was hit in the shoulder with a deadly artery-piercing arrow, and an undigested meal in the Iceman's stomach suggests he was ambushed, researchers say....

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    The curse of Tutankhamen? Pure invention

    When George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, died 90 years ago this week he was one of the most famous men on Earth. He occupied the family seat at Highclere Castle, but wintered in Egypt every year. By 1923, Carnarvon had spent an estimated £35,000 on excavation, hunting for glory.Finally he got it. His man in the field, Howard Carter, had discovered the steps down to the unbroken seals on the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of Kings. Carnarvon dashed from England, and together they broke in a small portion of the door. “Well, can you see anything?” the Earl asked. “Yes,” came the famous reply, as Carter waved his candle and caught the glint of gold, “wonderful things.”The story was a press sensation in a gloomy post-war world still mourning the dead of that terrible conflict and the influenza pandemic that had followed shortly afterwards. The tomb was formally opened in February 1923, with visiting royalty, dignitaries and the world’s press in attendance....

  • Originally published 03/11/2013

    Even mummies get clogged arteries

    Heart disease is often thought to be a malady of the modern era, the product of lifestyles heavy on eating and light on exercise.That includes conditions like atherosclerosis, when fat and cholesterol build-up along artery walls, making it difficult for blood to pass through the body to the heart and limbs.New research, presented Sunday night at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, suggests the exact opposite: That heart disease is a malady with a history that stretches back over 4,000 years. How, exactly, did they figure this out? By putting mummies through CT scan machines, of course....

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    Doctor to the mummies

    As a pathologist, Michael Zimmerman was familiar with dead bodies, but when he was asked to autopsy a mummy for the first time, he wasn’t sure what to expect. There were a dozen layers of wrapping, which he peeled off one at a time, “like Chinese boxes,” he said. When he finished, he found the body was dark brown and hard. “It smelled like old books.”That was more than 30 years ago. Now, having dissected and CT-scanned mummies from all over the world — some ancient and some just two or three centuries old — Zimmerman has begun drawing conclusions about health and disease in past eras. His work and that of other so-called paleopathologists is starting to challenge assumptions about which diseases are caused by modern lifestyles and which ones are as ancient as the pharaohs....

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