Everyone loves unraveling a good mystery, right?
I saw this story last week about how the mummy from the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport — the body of a woman which goes by the name Pa-Ib — was examined to see if there was a bird mummy inside its stomach.
From the article:
Researchers who examined an Egyptian mummy with the latest imaging technology found no evidence that a packet inside her was an offering to the gods of the ancient world.
Previous tests led to speculation that the packet was a bird mummy — something researchers said would be an unusual and exciting find — but high-resolution tests Thursday at Quinnipiac University showed no remnants of a bird. Instead, researchers said the packet and a few others in the mummy likely contained organs, which were sometimes preserved and placed back in mummies for use in the afterlife.
Oh well. I do like that they transported the mummy in coffin and hearse — it is an actual body, after all! Bad enough the poor woman was dug up from her final resting place and shipped halfway around the world, where she’s been displayed in a museum like a piece of pottery and ogled by thousands. It’s always bothered me that for a long time grave-robbing was condoned in the name of archaeology, and by calling it “a mummy” rather than what it is — a corpse — it sort of makes it less than human, and therefore, less worthy of being treated as we would treat a loved one (which she was to someone).
Anyway, even if Connecticut isn’t exactly known for its mummies, maybe it should be — Pa-Ib has been residing here for over a century as she came into P.T. Barnum’s collection in the 1890s. New Haven’s Yale Peabody Museum is also home to another human mummy — an individual who may have been murdered centuries ago — as well as animal mummies, including a cat mummy. Me-yow!
Also, a fact that may or may not have been kept under wraps (ha!) is that the two Quinnipiac University professors who recently examined Pa-Ib — as well as the mummy at the Peabody — were the main investigators of National Geographic’s (ironically) short-lived “Mummy Roadshow,” a program dedicated to non-invasively examining mummies around the world. And even though that show is no longer making new episodes, it hasn’t stopped professors Ronald Beckett and Gerald Conlogue from creating the Biantrhopical Research Institute at Quinnipiac, where they still continue the work of respectfully examining the past.
If you’ve never watched “Mummy Roadshow,” Beckett and Conlogue are as entertaining as they are interesting. They chronicled their investigative adventures in a book a few years ago — Mummy Dearest: How Two Men in a Potato Chip Truck Changed the Way the Living See the Dead. And yes, they used a converted potato chip truck to cart the equipment they used to examine hundreds of mummies over the year.