Since exhumations are all the rage right now, I thought I’d share my favorite: Elizabeth Siddal, artist and model to the Pre-Raphaelites.Siddal died of a laudanum overdose at the age of 32 in 1862 in London. Her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, left a journal containing the only copies of many of his poems in her coffin, tucking it away in her famous red hair.
Rossetti, drug- and alcohol-addled by the end of the 1860s, became obsessed with retrieving those poems so that he could publish them. Or, it seems, Rossetti’s agent, the slightly (or totally) shady Charles Augustus Howell, became obsessed with this. In any case, Howell exhumed her coffin in the middle of the night at Highgate Cemetery. Howell reported back to Rossetti that she was remarkably well preserved and still beautiful. Whether this was actually true or not, the manuscript didn’t make it out so well preserved. A worm had burrowed through the entire book, leaving behind a big old wormhole.
More here and here.
Image: Siddal as “Ophelia,” by John Everett Millais, 1852, via Wikipedia/Google Art Project.

Since exhumations are all the rage right now, I thought I’d share my favorite: Elizabeth Siddal, artist and model to the Pre-Raphaelites.

Siddal died of a laudanum overdose at the age of 32 in 1862 in London. Her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, left a journal containing the only copies of many of his poems in her coffin, tucking it away in her famous red hair.

Rossetti, drug- and alcohol-addled by the end of the 1860s, became obsessed with retrieving those poems so that he could publish them. Or, it seems, Rossetti’s agent, the slightly (or totally) shady Charles Augustus Howell, became obsessed with this. In any case, Howell exhumed her coffin in the middle of the night at Highgate Cemetery. 

Howell reported back to Rossetti that she was remarkably well preserved and still beautiful. Whether this was actually true or not, the manuscript didn’t make it out so well preserved. A worm had burrowed through the entire book, leaving behind a big old wormhole.

More here and here.

Image: Siddal as “Ophelia,” by John Everett Millais, 1852, via Wikipedia/Google Art Project.

This is George Mallory. Alive, in 1912.
Usually when I do my “This is So and So” posts, I show you a picture of them dead. That’s not the case here (though Dead George is a sight to behold): I like Alive George much, much better.
Mallory disappeared in 1924, on his third expedition to Mount Everest, along with his climbing partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine. It wasn’t until 75 years later, however, that Mallory’s body was discovered. On May 1, 1999, mountaineer Conrad Anker found Mallory’s frozen (and pretty much perfectly preserved) body on Everest. Here’s a video about it. It’s re-enact-y and overly dramatic, but it gives you an idea of how he was found.
From Wikipedia:

Within hours of beginning the search on 1 May, a frozen body was found by Conrad Anker at 26,760 feet (8,160 m) on the north face of the mountain. As the body was below where Irvine’s axe was found in 1933, the team expected the body to be Irvine’s, and were hoping to recover the camera that he had reportedly carried with him. They were surprised to find that name tags on the body’s clothing bore the name of “G. Mallory.” The body was remarkably well preserved, due to the mountain’s climate. The team could not locate the camera. Experts from Kodak have said that if a camera is ever found, there is some chance that its film could be developed to produce printable images, if extraordinary measures are taken.

Anker’s team held an Anglican service for Mallory and covered his body with a cairn. 
Image: George Mallory photographed at 38 Brunswick Square, London, age 25 or 26. Via Front Free Endpaper, whose post on Mallory is super, though NSFW (if you consider a very attractive man’s full back-al nudity NSFW).

This is George Mallory. Alive, in 1912.

Usually when I do my “This is So and So” posts, I show you a picture of them dead. That’s not the case here (though Dead George is a sight to behold): I like Alive George much, much better.

Mallory disappeared in 1924, on his third expedition to Mount Everest, along with his climbing partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine. It wasn’t until 75 years later, however, that Mallory’s body was discovered. On May 1, 1999, mountaineer Conrad Anker found Mallory’s frozen (and pretty much perfectly preserved) body on Everest. Here’s a video about it. It’s re-enact-y and overly dramatic, but it gives you an idea of how he was found.

From Wikipedia:

Within hours of beginning the search on 1 May, a frozen body was found by Conrad Anker at 26,760 feet (8,160 m) on the north face of the mountain. As the body was below where Irvine’s axe was found in 1933, the team expected the body to be Irvine’s, and were hoping to recover the camera that he had reportedly carried with him. They were surprised to find that name tags on the body’s clothing bore the name of “G. Mallory.” The body was remarkably well preserved, due to the mountain’s climate. The team could not locate the camera. Experts from Kodak have said that if a camera is ever found, there is some chance that its film could be developed to produce printable images, if extraordinary measures are taken.

Anker’s team held an Anglican service for Mallory and covered his body with a cairn. 

Image: George Mallory photographed at 38 Brunswick Square, London, age 25 or 26. Via Front Free Endpaper, whose post on Mallory is super, though NSFW (if you consider a very attractive man’s full back-al nudity NSFW).

Huffington Post: Unlocking The Mysteries Of The Tattoos Of The Dead

The Huffington Post has a fabulous slideshow of preserved tattoo specimens and an interview with Gemma Angel, of Life and Six Months.

Photo by Gemma Angel.

This story is no longer news, but still fascinating.
Check out this slideshow on Discovery News about the pyramid-shaped pile of bodies—nearly 300 total, about 100 of them naturally mummified—found in a church crypt in the mountain town of Roccapelago, Italy. 
The History Blog also has an article about it:

The unusual preservation was due to a confluence of the consistently cold temperature and two slots in the church wall that kept the air constantly circulating. The vaulted crypt — used as an armory when the church was a fortress in the Middle Ages — was first used for traditional inhumation under ground, but the practice later changed to corpses being dropped from a trap door in the church.

Image: Photograph by Paolo Terzi/SBAER, via the History Blog.

This story is no longer news, but still fascinating.

Check out this slideshow on Discovery News about the pyramid-shaped pile of bodies—nearly 300 total, about 100 of them naturally mummified—found in a church crypt in the mountain town of Roccapelago, Italy. 

The History Blog also has an article about it:

The unusual preservation was due to a confluence of the consistently cold temperature and two slots in the church wall that kept the air constantly circulating. The vaulted crypt — used as an armory when the church was a fortress in the Middle Ages — was first used for traditional inhumation under ground, but the practice later changed to corpses being dropped from a trap door in the church.

Image: Photograph by Paolo Terzi/SBAER, via the History Blog.

Mail Online: Pony-Tailed 130-Year-Old Mummy Surprises Grave Robbers with an Image That Will Haunt Them for Life

These mummy pictures make me kind of sad for him. At least his hair is awesome.

Saint Hubert

Saint Hubert (ca. 656 - 727), the first Bishop of Liège (in present-day Belgium), is the patron saint of hunters, archers, dogs, forest workers, trappers, mathematicians, opticians, metalworkers, and smelters. He was venerated widely during the Middle Ages. 

The National Gallery in London recounts the legend of his exhumation:

The body of Saint Hubert … was exhumed in 825 from St Peter’s in Liège, a church he founded, and moved to the Abbey of Andagium, St-Hubert-des-Ardennes. Though long dead, his body was undecayed, proving his sainthood to the figures gathered to watch. 

The Abbey of Andagium became a popular pilgrimage site, but the saint’s remains disappeared during the Reformation.

Sidenote One: Saint Hubert—like another patron saint of hunters, Saint Eustace—has traditionally been associated with the image of a deer with a cross between its antlers. His conversion legend has it that after his wife died in childbirth, Hubert retreated to the Ardennes and devoted himself entirely to hunting. From Wikipedia

On Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell.” 

The Saint Hubert deer might look familiar. It appears here:

Sidenote Two: Up until the early twentieth century, folks invoked Saint Hubert to cure rabies, using a metal tool known as a “Saint Hubert’s Key”:

From the Science Museum in London (where this specimen resides):  

[Saint Hubert’s Keys] took the form of a bar, nail or cross that was either carried or attached to a wall of a home for added protection. A priest would prick the forehead of a person with rabies and a black bandage would be applied for nine days while the heated key was placed on the body where the bite had occurred. This could actually help because if the heated key was applied immediately it could cauterise and sterilize the wound, effectively killing the rabies virus.

Images, top to bottom:

  • "The Exhumation of Saint Hubert" by Rogier Van der Weyden and workshop, late 1430s, via Wikipedia.
  • Jägermeister bottle, via Wikipedia
  • Saint Hubert’s Key, Belgium, ca. 1880-1920, from the Science Museum (London).

Korean Mummies!

Did you know there are mummies in Korea? I didn’t, until I found this article from 2007 on National Geographic. (Apparently, archaeologists didn’t, either, until the bodies started showing up, as old cemeteries were moved to make way for new houses in the recent construction boom.)

This person lived about 500 years ago and was found in South Korea. According to National Geographic, the mummification is perhaps the result of a burial practice that evolved in 14th-century Korea:

"The people believed the body should dissolve in a natural manner, without external factors such as worms," said Mark Spigelman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is known for his pioneering studies of ancient diseases found on mummified bodies around the world.

"This is why they developed a special burial custom."

The method involves laying a body on ice for 3 to 30 days during mourning, placing the corpse inside an inner and an outer pine coffin surrounded by the deceased’s clothes, and covering the coffin in a lime soil mixture.

"In some cases, this inadvertently resulted in extremely good natural mummification," Spigelman added. "They didn’t expect mummification and, in fact, that’s the one thing they wouldn’t want."

This method—unlike the artificial (and brittle-making) mummification processes used in ancient Egypt—resulted in mummies that are relatively pliable, with better preserved DNA. Researchers were even able to take samples from one mummy of the virus that causes hepatitis B, which could pave the way for research that might help modern-day sufferers of the disease.

A more recent discovery—featured in the Daily Mail—is this lady, who is also believed to be about 500 years old:

She was found in Osan, in South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province, with her purse.

Bottom photograph: The Daily Mail
Have missing Civil War sailors in your family tree? The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary is looking for your help identifying these two fellas:


These are facial reconstructions from skeletons found in the wreck of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, which sank in 1862.
I heard about this on NPR. Listen to the story. There are so many interesting things about this, including the fact that they were able to recover any remains at all from a 150-year-old shipwreck, including some soft tissue.
Top image: Crewmen of the USS Monitor pictured in July 1862. Library of Congress, via NPR.Bottom two images: Louisiana State University, via NPR.

Have missing Civil War sailors in your family tree? The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary is looking for your help identifying these two fellas:

These are facial reconstructions from skeletons found in the wreck of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, which sank in 1862.

I heard about this on NPR. Listen to the story. There are so many interesting things about this, including the fact that they were able to recover any remains at all from a 150-year-old shipwreck, including some soft tissue.

Top image: Crewmen of the USS Monitor pictured in July 1862. Library of Congress, via NPR.
Bottom two images: Louisiana State University, via NPR.

io9: This 5,300-year-old Iceman has close relatives living in the Mediterranean

Some news about Ötzi from io9.

I love this kind of stuff:

But the coolest results from this study are the ones linking the Iceman to his modern day descendants. Surprisingly, when Zink and his colleagues compared Ötzi’s genome with that of modern day European populations, they found he was most closely related not to people from Northern Italy (where he was discovered), but “present-day inhabitants of the Tyrrhenian Sea,” specifically men from the islands of Sardinia and Corsica.

These islands (labeled here in red) are separated from Ötzi’s final resting place (marked here with a red circle) by over three hundred miles and a sizable body of water. That’s pretty incredible, if you think about it. On one hand, it suggests that Ötzi’s descendents may have once inhabited a much larger portion of mainland Europe, only to die out — or become part of a much more diverse genetic pool — save for the inhabitants of these two, isolated islands. It also points to the evolutionarily isolating effects that islands can have on a population’s genetic makeup.

National Geographic: Lifelike "Wet Mummy" Found During Roadbuilding

This is remarkable: a Chinese “wet” mummy dating from the Ming dynasty. The story’s a year old, so it’s not really news. 

See the whole slideshow and learn interesting things, including this:

During the Ming dynasty, preservation after death was thought to “reflect your purity” in life, [historian Timothy] Brook explained.

Had this woman’s family known her body would be preserved for more than 600 years, they would have been extremely proud, he added.

There are a few additional pictures in this article in the Daily Mail.

Photo by Gu Xiangzhong, Xinhua/Corbis.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science offers some background on this Tarim Basin mummy:

Beautiful “Baby Blue,” an 8 month old boy, was lovingly placed in a red-purple blanket and wrapped securely with red and blue twisted cord. The baby’s eyes were covered with rectangular blue stones. His blue felt cashmere cap with a red felt lining encircled a tiny face that was covered with paint.  A few strands of brown hair with red highlights escaped from under his bonnet. “Baby Blue” lived during the 8th century BCE.

Quigley’s Cabinet also notes that his nose was plugged with red wool and that he was buried with a baby bottle made of sheep’s udder.
Image: Infant Mummy, ca 8th century BC by Penn Museum on Flickr.

Infant mummy, ca 8th century BCE. Excavated from Zaghunluq, Charchan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. © Wang Da-Gang.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science offers some background on this Tarim Basin mummy:

Beautiful “Baby Blue,” an 8 month old boy, was lovingly placed in a red-purple blanket and wrapped securely with red and blue twisted cord. The baby’s eyes were covered with rectangular blue stones. His blue felt cashmere cap with a red felt lining encircled a tiny face that was covered with paint.  A few strands of brown hair with red highlights escaped from under his bonnet. “Baby Blue” lived during the 8th century BCE.

Quigley’s Cabinet also notes that his nose was plugged with red wool and that he was buried with a baby bottle made of sheep’s udder.

Image: Infant Mummy, ca 8th century BC by Penn Museum on Flickr.

Infant mummy, ca 8th century BCE. Excavated from Zaghunluq, Charchan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. © Wang Da-Gang.

The Beauty of Xiaohe, ca 1800-1500 BCE by Penn Museum on Flickr.

"The Beauty of Xiaohe," female mummy, ca 1800-1500 BCE. Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River) Cemetery 5, Charqilik (Ruoqiang) County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. © Wang Da-Gang.

The Beauty of Xiaohe, ca 1800-1500 BCE by Penn Museum on Flickr.

"The Beauty of Xiaohe," female mummy, ca 1800-1500 BCE. Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River) Cemetery 5, Charqilik (Ruoqiang) County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. © Wang Da-Gang.

Skeletons, mummies, bog bodies, exhumations. The dead, and what happens to them.

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