I am a Biological Anthropology major, and as a requirement we have to take ANP 203 – Introduction to Archaeology. What we learned in the first week or so of this class, ANP 264, was review of ANP 203. I am very happy I took ANP 203 first because it really allows me to appreciate the hard work that went into making all of these remarkable discoveries. Speaking of discoveries, I love to read National Geographic Magazine for their wide array of captivating articles. With all of this talk about Ancient Egypt, I can’t stop thinking about mummies! I came across an article about Sicilian mummies that were taken from crypts and churches in Italy.
Archaeology is about understanding past cultures through analyzing their material remains. The Sicilian Mummy Project has been going on for 5 years now, and a recent discovery has allowed archaeologists to understand this culture in a different way. The Sicilians mummified their dead by letting them sit and drain of bodily fluids while surrounded by leaves and straw to maintain the shape of the body and keep down the smell. After all of the fluids had drained, they would wash the corpse in vinegar and then dress and display them. Due to their process of mummification, modern scientists were able to analyze the gastrointestinal systems of the mummies to draw conclusions about how they lived and died.
These bodies were mummified and placed in crypts because during their lives they were wealthy and/or members of the clergy. By analyzing their stomach contents, these people were blessed with a diet of meat, fish, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. This diet reflects their social status, but diseases were found that explained a lot about the mummies’ lives. A whip worm infection tells us that although these people were well-to-do, their lives involved interaction with the poor. One of the mummies actually turned out to have cancer, but was using medicinal plants not from the region to treat it. This is a remarkable finding because it shows they had and used knowledge from beyond their geographical limitations.
The Sicilian view of death has changed significantly over the centuries ranging from embracing death to ignoring it completely. The World Wars caused the people of this region viewed death as a negative event and treated their dead as such. As a result of the Sicilian Mummification Project, they began to remember that death is a part of life and it is not taboo. Just as centuries ago when mummification was a common practice in Sicily, these people are beginning to acknowledge the relationship between the living and dead once again.
Hope you enjoyed my post!
Source – http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130128-sicilian-mummies-archeology-italy/