Picking up the pieces of PUM I

I’ve mentioned before that we have several mummies in the Artifact Lab, but only one complete adult mummy, that we call PUM I (read more about him here).

PUM I, our adult male mummy in the Artifact Lab

I’m using the word “complete” here a little loosely, or perhaps very loosely, because while we appear to have most of his remains, and on first glance PUM I appears to be more or less all in one piece, we recently found out that he is pretty fragmentary. Many of his internal remains are currently housed in plastic bags

Bags containing the desiccated remains of PUM I

and we recently realized that his head is completely detached from the rest of his body.

Why is PUM I so fragmentary? Well, his poor condition is due in part to the fact that he was autopsied back in 1971. PUM I’s autopsy was conducted at the university by a group of distinguished researchers who it seems were not yet very experienced in the study of ancient human remains. Unfortunately, one of their first forays into this work (PUM I’s autopsy) was reported as being an “unmitigated disaster”. They noted that the body was poorly preserved, without personal data or provenance, and their findings in the end, were minimal. And we have yet to locate any substantial records produced by the researchers during this study, so we don’t know exactly what they did-we only see the result of their work. Fortunately for other mummies, these researchers learned a lot from this experience and went on to conduct other much more successful autopsies.

But what about PUM I? After the autopsy, PUM I was laid back into his wood coffin, where he has remained ever since; his remains and linen wrappings continuing to deteriorate. In the Artifact Lab, we have made it our goal to remove PUM I from his coffin so that we can fully understand his condition, thoroughly document his remains, and stabilize them as much as possible. Within the next couple days, PUM I will be out of his coffin-we’ll report on our progress later this week!