Archive for mummies

Preserved in time – Peruvian mummies

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , on March 25, 2010 by echostains

cherchen man with tattoos

There are lots of ways the dead can be preserved.  The elements help. So far I have explored preservation by earth (well peat really) with the Bog bodies.  Then there was water (Otzi the ice man) frozen in ice and found in the Austrain/Italian alps.  But earth and water aren’t the only elements which can make time stand still.  Air also has its part to play.  Dry humid air has contributed in preserving the most famous mummies of all – the Egyptian mummies.  But these bodies have been treated with nitrates and bandaging.

The first body found was a Tocharian woman who was probably sacrificed

Lots of conditions can lead to natural mummification.  Sometimes the air is too dry, the ice is too cold, the ground is arid and these can preserve the bodies, sometimes for thousands of years.

this woman was approx 40 yrs old her stature and red hair indicate european descent

The Taklamakan mummies were found in 1980s on the edge of an old Silk Road in a remote desert in what is China.  The bodies are not embalmed but preserved naturally by the dry sands.  They are tall with red gold hair and it is believed that they are European descent.  Interestingly, the woman’s cloth garment is identical with Celtic cloth.

Here’s a small film which features her among other bodies:-

The Loulan Beauty as she may have looked

Another  Mummy, also found in China is obviously Caucasian.  She is known as the Loulan Beauty and she was found in the ruins of an ancient city on the edge of the Taklamakan desert.  She is thought to be over 4000 years old, stood 6ft 1 in. and is a European Caucasian ( before the Chinese got to China) she was over 40 years of age when she died.

The Loulan Beauty as she was found

It never ceases to amaze me what endurance the physical human body has and how nature can destroy or preserve our shell, leaving clues for  those who come after us.   The spirit shall go on, but we can learn a lot about ourselves by studying our past.

PS  My latest poem  is called ‘Acrostic Alphabet-ish’ here

More about the Taklamakan mummies here

Images from here

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Preserved in time – Otzi – the iceman

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by echostains

  

oetzi or otzi as he was found

 

There’s many ways a body can be preserved.  One is by peat, as we have seen with the bog bodies.  Another is by ice – which proved  the case with the oldest frozen body ever  found – 5,300 years old!. This body found high in the mountains between the borders of Italy and the Austrian has become known as Oetzi or Otzi because he was found in the Otztal area. 

 

Otzi the iceman waiting

 

He was found by two hikers in 1991.   His body was lay face down with his hat near him and his axe leaning against a rock.  By analysing the ice that he was preserved in scientists were able not only to pinpoint when he died but even what season he died in by the pollen contained in the ice – which was Autumn.

 

the arrow wound

 

It was  first thought  that Otzi was a shepherd, returning home with his herd , that he had gotten into a fight and fled to the mountains and died of injuries to his chest.  But later  tests revealed that Otzi had actually died between the months of March and June (Spring) because of unusual pollen found in his stomachs contents.

Further tests also revealed that the snow around Otzi had melted at least once, displacing the objects around him and that the ribs had been damaged after death, not before.

 

the iceman's axe

 

In 2001 his body was X rayed again, this time scientist discovered a stone axe head embedded in the man’s shoulder.  So the latest theory is that Otzi was attacked, he ran off, and someone shot him in the back with an arrow.  He managed to pull out the arrow, but the head lay embedded in his shoulder.  Weak from his injuries he lay down and died in the mountains.

 

a reconstruction of what Otzi might have looked like

 

Still more further tests revealed that Otzi may have been a Copper smelter owing to levels of copper particles found in his hair, but some still hold to the shepherd theory as the man was of sturdy robust build.

Otzi’s body still holds secrets, though it is thought that he was a man in his 40s, about 5ft 4 in height..  A reconstruction of the man

  

Oetzi tattoo, one of many

 

Otzi has several tattoos on his body (59 in total!). His hand had been tattooed with a kind of ink made of soot, and perhaps these were not merely for decoration – they may have served a therapeutic or even medicinal purpose (see here)

Read other facts and the curse of the iceman here

Otzi website with close up images including  his tattoos here

Detailed descriptions of Otzi’s possessions and images here

Please don’t be offended if I don’t answer your posts for a couple of days, I am away for a few days so have scheduled quite a few posts.  I promise to reply to any comments when I get back.

More Bodies from the Bog: Grauballe Man

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , , on February 19, 2010 by echostains

Grauballe Man

Another Bog body that I find fascinating is ‘Grauballe’ man.   When I first read ‘The Bog People’ by Professor PV Glob, this was the body that frightened me the most.  Over time though I don’t seem to see the horror any more – just the near perfect preservation of a man who was murdered all that time ago in history (not a nice subject I know) and I feel such pity for that poor man and what he must have suffered  – his throat cut and his skull fractured.

the hand of Grauballe Man

Grauballe man has the best preserved  Iron age body.   Carbon dating places him as living about 55 B.C !   He lay in the peat which preserved him until he was found in 1952 in the village Grauballe in Denmark.  His hair is remarkably spectacular, though the chemicals in the peat have turned it red.   His nails are perfect and his wonderfully preserved fingerprints have been taken!  Was he sacrificed?  No one knows for sure.  His age was about 30 and studies have discovered that he was in the early stages of gout and suffered from arthritus.  Grauballe man was naked apart from a strange cord around his neck.

The Bog Bodies by P V Glob

Tests have also revealed his last supper, still in his intestines, a kind of porridge made of many different grain.

gauballe man

This poem was written about him.  The poet is Seamus Heiney, a well known Irish poet who had a strange fascination for things found in bogs – just like me.

The Grauballe Man

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk
cold as a swan’s foot
or a wet swamp root.

His hips are the ridge
and purse of a mussel,
his spine an eel arrested
under a glisten of mud.

The head lifts,
the chin is a visor
raised above the vent
of his slashed throat

that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound
opens inwards to a dark
elderberry place.

Who will say ‘corpse’
to his vivid cast?
Who will say ‘body’
to his opaque repose?

And his rusted hair,
a mat unlikely
as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face

in a photograph,
a head and shoulder
out of the peat,
bruised like a forceps baby,

but now he lies
perfected in my memory,
down to the red horn
of his nails,

hung in the scales
with beauty and atrocity:
with the Dying Gaul
too strictly compassed

on his shield,
with the actual weight
of each hooded victim,
slashed and dumped.

There are lots more of Heaney’s poems on this excellent site HERE

More facts about Grauballe from his resting place in Moesgard Museum

Another of my posts about bog bodies HERE

Want to see a reconstruction of how he may have looked? HERE

Altered Art book page 3 and 4 ‘A Question of Life and Death’

Posted in MY ALTERED ART BOOK PAGES with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2008 by echostains

p4  altered art book

p4 altered art book

The conversation on Page 4 was one that I found myself joining in with.  The text says;

 

Your mother is dead’ she told him, and he cried because the world had such a dull empty sound.  She tried to explain.  ‘When someone dies’ she said, ‘they go away’

‘When do they come back?

‘They don’t, she said.  They don’t come back.’

Edit: the word because needs printing out again (and spelling correctly)

 I wanted to question that;

Are you sure about that?

(A bit louder) ‘I said,

 

 

page2 detail

page2 detail

 

 

 Are you sure about that?’ 

Obviously, not knowing the answer, I added

‘Is there anyone there?????’

The image on the page is a ‘Spirit’ photo with a ‘Spirit’ standing at the back.  The woman who looks like she has a tablecloth in her mouth is actually emitting ectoplasm: a fascinating substance that seems to have died out now in Spiritual circles.  This ectoplasm eventually gave form to a spirit or so they say, though I’ve yet to hear a spirit confirm this.  The spirit world seems to have moved on now: it’s all mod cons now: orbs are the new phenomena.  Transformation of communication again.

Life and Death are fascinating questions (or are they both statements: facts?).  What IS life? And what exactly IS death?  We know that there IS Life (well, as we know it), but what is death?  Is there life after death?  Perhaps there’s no death, only a kind of life that goes on and on.  I have always been extremely interested in the preservation of dead bodies.   That’s probably due to a subconscious yearning for Everlasting life .  In that sense, I am no different from an ancient Egyptian.

Seti 1
Seti 1

Mummies fascinate me: whether they are embalmed, desiccated (dried out) usually in a hot climate like the dessert

 

 

Peruvian mummy 1200 to 1400

Peruvian mummy 1200 to 1400

 or preserved in watery bogs.

Tollund Man Bog body

Tollund Man Bog body

It is the preservation of the body (and the soul) that interests me.  It was for one of those reasons I went to see Professor Gunther von Hagens ‘Bodyworlds’ exhibition when it came to Brick Lane London in 2002.  

 

Von Hagens, known as the ‘Plastinater’ (I shook hands with that charming man by the way; his hands were cool…) had called into the exhibition to give an interview to a TV station.  There was also red paint (that at first looked like blood) on some of the backstairs: some kind of a demonstration protest had taken place. 

 

 

 

Dr von Hagens Bodyworlds exhibition

Dr von Hagens Bodyworlds exhibition The Plastination process involves removing fats and bodily fluids from the body: this impedes decomposition. The fluids are replaced with certain resins, silicon rubber, epoxy and elastomers. The material is then hardened and cured with light gas and heat, resulting in permanence.Human body from the Bodyworlds exhibition

My husband wasn’t keen on going to this exhibition, but even he thought it was fantastic.  We didn’t find it morbid or grisly though, though it’s hard to get away from the fact that these are dead people.  Some of them are celebrating things they did in real life.  The professor is no artist though and some of the tableaux could be said to be in bad taste.   I think his attempt to ‘lighten’ what is a controversial subject matter, may have backfired somewhat. But I do think that his intentions were honourable and he really wanted to show how these  body parts worked and what went wrong when they didn’t.   It’s not often that we see exactly what a deceased lung looks like…or a brain haemorrhage, yet these and other illnesses kill us.  When I looked at these illnesses, I felt that I was looking  death in the face (the causes of death) and that the ‘mystery’ had gone: the machine had broken: here’s what has broken it.

 

I gazed in wonder at these dead people who looked back at me.  They were just like me: the same species.  Only they were dead and I was Alive, looking at them: looking at these fantastic, miraculous machines – because machines we are: I couldn’t help but be acutely aware of the ONE difference between me and them: the spark of Life  which I hold within myself.  For that reason I found the exhibition a super Life affirming experience.

 

 

 

 Life affirming! Not death affirming, that’s inevitable.

This leads onto the other question though: is there life after death?  Well if there is, we sure don’t need the body to live it.  In that way, that’s where the Ancients went wrong, they thought the soul was nothing without the body it inhabited.

http://www.bodyworlds.com/en.h

At University, in the Foundation years I came across an artist that dealt with the spirit world.  This man claimed that he communicated with the dead and transmuted their communication through his art.  Austin O Spare dealt with the subconscious. O Spare who was very interested in the Occult and Ancient Magic claimed that some of his brushstrokes were directed by spirits: those who inhabited the Spiritual realm and that his art was automatical, springing from the subconscious.    I wrote an essay about this that I will put on this blog called ‘Art and Subconscious’.  O Spare was one of the artists I used in my research.  I first came across O Spare in an article in the Fortean Times (lots of interesting and thought provoking stuff in this magazine). 

http://www.forteantimes.com/

 

 

'Existence' from the Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare

'Existence' from the Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare

  In an interview with Hannen Swaffer, (An extract from Adventures with Inspiration  Hannen Swaffer) O Spare says about his art; –

“In some cases the ideas are the result of my inward psychical experiences,” Mr. Spare told me, “things I have not necessarily seen, or outwardly experienced. In others, the drawings are automatic, started with no idea as to what form they shall take, and completed without conscious direction.

Laugh aloud Zos answered by Austin O Spare

Laugh aloud Zos answered by Austin O Spare

For more info about O Spare;  

 

 http://www.banger.com/spare/index.html

 

http://www.austinspare.co.uk/zos.html

http://www.austinspare.co.uk/zos6.html

Media used page 4; Acrylics, inks, silver card, rafia, photo copied images

Pages 3 and 4

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page-two-three-and-extramap