Friday Sprog Blogging: Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts.

Jun 25 2010 Published by under Book review, Kids and science

The Free-Ride offspring are currently summering (for a couple weeks, anyway) with The Grandparents Who Lurk But Seldom Comment. Practically, this means the conversations between Free-Ride offspring and parents over the past week have been brief and focused on how awesome day camp is.
I have, however, taken steps to ensure that while I am deprived of the physical presence of my offspring, you will not be deprived of the weekly installment of sprog blogging. To this end, I gave each of the sprogs a book to read during their visit with their grandparents and asked them to report back on their books via email.
Of course, I forgot to issue a mid-week reminder.
Nonetheless, the elder Free-Ride offspring was prepared to deliver a report on this book:


Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts
By Charlotte Wilcox
What I learned:
1: Mummies can be naturally created or man-made.
2: Carbon dating is often inaccurate. [I assume this inaccuracy is with respect to the typical age of the mummies being dated. Maybe it's a consequence of the mummification process? I'll need to ask the elder Free-Ride offspring about this.]
3: Natural mummification can happen in a bog.
4: Sacrifices were sometimes mummified.
5: Preserved body tissue might tell scientists how someone died.
6: Bones stay preserved better than body tissue.
7: People sometimes use mummies as decoration or for anatomical demonstrations.
8: Noblepeople were often mummified when they died.
9: Most mummies are sent to museums.
10: Preserved lung tissue looks disturbing. XP [Emoticon in original.]
What I want to know:
1: How did people learn how to mummify others?
2: Why did people sacrifice children to their "Gods"? [Scare-quotes in original]
3: Who (or what) was the first person mummified?
4: Why do grave robbers sell creepy preserved things? [I'm guessing capitalism.]
5: Why does preserved lung tissue look like 2-year-old lasagna? [How does my child know what 2-year-old lasagna looks like?]
Major props to the elder offspring for doing blog-homework without any prodding. This sets the bar pretty high for the younger offspring next week.

8 responses so far

  • bytz says:

    "... often inaccurate..." sounds like a loaded or misleading phrase. It may be that this refers to the date range of the dating i.e. +/- 100 years or the x% error chance or something similar. I'd suggest having elder Free-Ride define what was meant by this.
    Ask C14 dating is generally good for up to around 50,000 years or so, dating a mummy (around 4000 years, more or less, for Egyptian mummies) should not be a problem.
    I can't think of anything in the mummification process that would alter the carbon-14 content and there is nothing that will alter its decay rate.

  • daedalus2u says:

    That is a good question. Usually the “science experiments” that result in first person observations of 2 year old lasagna occur when an individual has their first apartment.

  • J-Dog says:

    Beautiful post - especially the two year old lasagna imagery.
    Re: Carbon dating comment- Just hope that the author doesn't want to "teach the controversy", which would open up a can of worms with a huge ick factor.

  • RMD says:

    We're borrowing the Sprogs for a sleepover this weekend and promise to give them a hefty dose of backyard botany, kitchen chemistry and bocce to supplement the reading material...

  • stripey_cat says:

    I suspect that if you're talking about bog bodies, environmental contamination from the peat is a real issue. So not a problem with carbon dating in principle, but a difficulty in obtaining clean samples.

  • Dario Ringach says:

    If ever in central Mexico, visit the Mummies of Guanajuato:
    ...although I am not sure this one visit is for the kids.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Have you seen this about radiocarbon dating?

  • Dario Ringach says:

    Closer to home -- California Science Center, opening on July 1st:
    Mummies of the world:
    ...there is also an IMAX film to go with it.