UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
How does a mummy body stay the same?
Answer 1:

I went to a mummy exhibit at my local museum last month and learned a lot about mummies. The big secret to mummies is that they have to get preserved before they rot. Bacteria (and other things) usually start to break down bodies almost immediately after death. So in order to become mummies, bodies have to be protected from bacteria. The body does not actually stay the same, it just doesn't rot.

There are many ways to avoid rotting from bacteria. Bacteria need water. They also do well at warm temperatures. They don't do well in salt or very hot or cold temperatures. There are also many chemicals that kill them.

The Egyptian mummies are the most famous. Mummies can form naturally in hot, dry conditions like the deserts of Egypt. If an animal died when the weather was hot and windy, they may have dried out before the bacteria got to start the rotting. Seeing natural mummies is probably how people got the idea of creating them.People made it more likely that their dead would be preserved by removing the big, wet organs, using cloth and other material to dry the body, and even using the chemicals in plants to make the dead bodies a bad place for bacteria to live. They hot, dry climate did the rest.

Mummies can also form in cool or cold dry places, but the conditions have to be just right. It has to be cold enough that the bacteria don't grow before the body dries out. People in South America made mummies. Naturally-formed mummies have been found in many places in the world.

We can learn a lot about ancient people by looking at mummies. We can see what they valued enough to place with their dead. We can see what diseases the person had in their life and get clues about what they ate, what tools the used, and what they wore.

Do you live in a place where mummies would form? Why or why not?

If you are interested in how bacteria work, you may have a career in microbiology ahead of you. Check out this site:
click here.

If you are interested in ancient civilizations, you may enjoy studying archaeology. Check out this site:

archeology
Thanks for asking,


Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use