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September 2007
Mummy News Archives

ARCHIVED NEWS: 2004-2007
ARCHIVED NEWS: 2003 & earlier

September 2007


Identity of naturally preserved boy found in cast-iron coffin from 1852 determined by researchers (

"Researchers have solved the mystery of the boy in the iron coffin. The cast-iron coffin was discovered by utility workers in Washington two years ago. Smithsonian scientists led by forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley set about trying to determine who was buried in it, so the body could be placed in a new, properly marked grave. The body was that of 15-year-old William Taylor White, who died in 1852 and was buried in the Columbia College cemetery, they announced Thursday. The mystery of this young boy's life and a strong sense of responsibility to properly identify him kept me and the entire team focused and determined. This was not a one-person project. It took more than three dozen people nearly two years to make the ID," Deborah Hull-Walski, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said in a statement. The researchers believe that the coffin was inadvertently left behind when the cemetery was later moved.... Because they are sealed, cast iron coffins tend to yield well-preserved bodies. Indeed, the young person looked not unlike an ancient mummy, even though he had not gone through the Egyptian embalming procedures. "


September 2007


Judge order burial of Concord's baby mummy (

"They'll be no more holidays or show-and-tells for "Baby John," the mummified baby displayed on Charles Peavey's bureau until the police confiscated it last year. A probate court judge yesterday said state officials can bury the infant's decades-old remains because Peavey hasn't proven his claim that he and the mummy are kin. Peavey, 42, of Concord, has 30 days to appeal that decision, but he said yesterday he won't. "I'm just washing my hands of it," said Peavey, who said he skipped the court hearing because he can't afford the DNA tests needed to prove kinship. "I'm disappointed it came to this." Lack of DNA wasn't the only concern raised by attorney Richard Head of the state attorney general's office. Equally troubling, Head told Judge Richard Hampe, is Peavey's MySpace page, a campy collection of haunted houses, skeletons and references to Baby John. The online site opens with The Addams Family's," familiar theme song: "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky . . . " Next is The Munster's theme song. The page also includes sayings like, "Children shouldn't play with dead things." The website, Head told the judge, raises "questions about whether the remains are being treated with the appropriate respect." Hampe looked at printed-out images from the site but limited his comments to DNA. He said without proof of kinship, state law requires that he insure that the infant's remains were released to a funeral director for burial. And so apparently ends the long and unlikely tale that began in April 200..."

More on the mysterious mummified infant from New Hampshire

From August 2006: Owner doubts that baby mummy will be returned ( 

"When Charles Peavey of Concord learned in April that the police wanted his family's unusual heirloom - a mummified baby - he gave it up with a mix of trepidation and hope. The mummy and the stories surrounding it had been in Peavey's family for generations. But DNA testing could finally confirm whether that baby was truly a Peavey. It now seems unlikely the authorities will spend the few thousand dollars to do the DNA testing, said Peavey, 41. And worse, he said, he's been told he may not even get the mummy back. Instead, Dr. Marcella Sorg, the Maine forensic scientist examining the mummy, investigated only the cause of death and whether the corpse is diseased, he said. Sorg has finished her autopsy, the Concord police said, but has not submitted a report. Sorg could not be reached for comment, and neither the police nor Peavey has heard her conclusions...."

From May 2006: Did mummified infant come from Hawaii? (

"The strange case of a mummified baby found in a home in New England may have a Hawaii connection.... A man who lives in the capital of New Hampshire, Concord, believes the body he kept in his home was part-Hawaiian.... Charles Peavy, a cook in Concord, New Hampshire, has had the mummified baby for eight years. He says it's been in his family for about 90 years, left among the possessions of his widely traveled great-great uncle. Peavy believes his great-great uncle fell in love with a Hawaiian woman and she and their baby died in childbirth. The mummy was kept in a box decorated with shells, bearing the words: 'sacred to the memory of our little Hawaiian home across the sea....' "

From A reporter's story: How to track down the owner of a mummified body (

"I've got at least another 30 years of newspaper reporting ahead of me, but I already know some of the stories I'll remember most. The election of Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Covering the state's abortion case at the U.S. Supreme Court. And last week's hunt for the mummy baby. Here's why: I'm more reporter than writer, and those three stories were tough to land. But none was harder than the mummy. It took me six days of knocking on strangers' doors and calling my best contacts to find the mummy. At a daily paper, that's an eternity. The initial tip came on a Friday, the busiest day in a newsroom, and I was in the middle of two stories. 'You ready for this?' the tipster said. 'There is a mummified baby in Concord. The Concord police got a call. That's all I know'...."

From April 2006:Investigation continues...and consequences become clearer (

"New Hampshire investigators have seized a mummified baby's corpse that a family has been passing down as an heirloom for decades. Charles Peavey, 41, told Concord police he was told when he inherited "Baby John" from his father, it was the stillborn son of a great-great uncle. The state attorney general's office has forensic anthropologists investigating the infant's age, origin and cause of death to rule out homicide, but results could take months, the Concord Monitor reported. If no DNA link can be found to the Peavey clan, he will not receive the remains back. And if the infant is in fact more than 80 years old as Peavey claims, the statute of limitations on any laws regarding human remains have expired, the report said...." 

From April 2006: New Hampshire Attorney General's office to investigate (

"A mummified baby that’s belonged to a local family for decades is being investigated by the state attorney general’s office. Charles Peavey, 41, said the tiny preserved corpse has been passed down in his family since it was discovered among his great-great uncle’s possessions in a Manchester attic. Investigators got word of the remains after Peavey’s 4-year-old niece was overheard telling another child that her uncle was a killer and had a dead baby. Police visited the girl’s mother and saw a photo of the mummy. Peavey contacted police when he learned they were investigating. Now the mummy is in the hands of investigators, and Peavey said he was told a forensic anthropologist would be examining it...." 

From April 2006: A family heirloom: Mysterious mummified infant? (

"For decades, Charles Peavey's family has passed down what he admits is a most unusual family heirloom: the tiny corpse of a mummified baby whose mysterious history has been filled with legend. But Peavey, 41, of Concord had never considered the keepsake a problem until the Concord police learned of the remains last week and took them for testing. The state attorney general's office is investigating the infant's age, origin and cause of death to rule out homicide. It seems unlikely that Peavey will face criminal charges, but the investigation has him worried. Of all the stories surrounding the mummy's birth and death, Peavey favors the one that says he's an ancient relative - the stillborn son of a great-great uncle. He calls the mummy "Baby John." Through DNA testing, a forensic anthropologist will be able to determine whether that theory is plausible....."




September 2007


40 more Chachapoya mummies found in Peru (

"Some 40 mummies from the pre-Inca civilization Chachapoyas were found in the fortress of Kuelap in Peru, the project leader at the archaeological site said Wednesday. Alfredo Narvaez said the mummies, who were both men and women and of various ages, were found under tons of dirt and stones, along with several pieces of pottery. 'The most surprising thing is that the remains show traces of having been affected by a fire. This opens up new questions for researchers, like whether they were victims of an epidemic or maybe of a violent occupation that ended in a massacre, after which the fortress was set ablaze,' Narvaez told the Andina news agency. The researcher said the mummies were located in and outside six circular buildings, presumably houses...."


September 2007


New study reveals more details about Windeby Girl (

"Human remains yield secrets. Researchers, including Dr. Heather Gill-Robinson, assistant professor of anthropology at North Dakota State University, are now probing the secrets of 'bog mummies' some dating back 2000 years, preserved from the Iron Age with amazing detail in peat bogs of Europe. Bog mummies have particularly interesting stories to tell. Physical anthropologists draw conclusions from the eerily preserved hair, leathery skin and other features that emerge from the bogs. During the Iron Age from approximately 500BC to 500AD, bodies were often cremated, often leading experts to believe that mummies uniquely preserved by the bogs were people who met their demise through particularly violent means or were used as sacrifices, although there are numerous possible other explanations. A violent demise was thought to be the case for a mummy known as Windeby Girl, studied by Dr. Gill-Robinson. Discovered in northern Germany in 1952, experts thought she may have been an adulteress whose head was shaved, after which she was blindfolded and drowned in the bog. But, on closer inspection,  Heather Gill-Robinson of North Dakota State University determined that the Windeby Girl was actually more likely to have been a young man.  He may have lost his hair when archaeologists’ trowels dug up the body. Physical examination of the mummy showed that growth interruptions in the bones of the specimen indicated a sick young man who may have died from natural causes...."


September 2007


Yale to return Machu Picchu mummies and artifacts (

"Yale University has agreed to return thousands of Inca artifacts taken from Peru's famed Machu Picchu citadel almost a century ago, the government said Saturday.... The New Haven, Connecticut-based university said in a statement on its Web site that some of the pieces will remain there temporarily for research, but did not specify how many. Peru demanded the collection back last year, saying it never relinquished ownership when Yale scholar Hiram Bingham III rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911. All told he exported more than 4,000 artifacts including mummies, ceramics and bones from what has become one of the world's most famous archaeological sites...."


September 2007


Prehistoric Scots mummified their dead (

"The ancient Egyptians were not the only ones to mummify their dead, according to a study in this month's Antiquity Journal that claims prehistoric Scottish people created mummies too. The researchers do not think the Egyptians influenced the Scots, but that mummification arose independently in the two regions. Initial evidence for Scottish mummies was announced in 2005, when archaeologists unearthed three preserved bodies — an adult female, an adult male and an infant — buried underneath two Bronze Age roundhouses in South Uist, Hebrides, at a site called Cladh Hallan. The bodies date to between 1300 and 1500 B.C...."


September 2007


Egyptians carefully made their cat mummies (

"Examination of Egyptian mummies has shown that animals such as cats and crocodiles were given a far more careful and expensive trip to the afterlife than previously thought. The mummification process, which was crucial to the ancient Egyptians so their bodies survived and they could become immortal, is being investigated by Dr Stephen Buckley at the University of York. He was speaking on September 11, 2007 at the BA Festival of Science. His work uses modern chemistry techniques to look at exactly what was used to mummify humans and animals. The technique involves taking a very small sample of the mummy and examining it for traces of chemicals using equipment commonly used in forensic studies. The compounds that Dr Buckley finds act as the chemical fingerprints for the materials used by the Egyptian embalmers.  These included animal fats, beeswax, plant oils and resins, and more exotic materials such as marjoram and cinnamon...."


September 2007


Major Scythian exhibit (with mummy) opens in Berlin, then moves in Munich and Hamburg (

"In ancient Greece, the Scythians were at first known as mysterious "milkers of mares." To Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, the Scythian mounted archers crossing Palestine to raid Egypt were "midnight people." Detailed reports about the rider-nomads came only some 2,500 years ago from the widely travelled Greek historian Herodotus. Now a major archeological exhibition offers an exhaustive overview of the life and history of the enigmatic tribes that ruled the steppes in Eastern Europe and Asia for more than 500 years B.C. and had a little-known but highly developed culture. Museums and institutes in eight European and Asian countries worked together in preparing the impressive show at Berlin's Martin Gropius building. Many objects on display have never been shown in the West, among them magnificent samples excavated only in recent years. The show's title, "Under the Sign of the Golden Griffin: the Royal Graves of the Scythians," refers to Herodotus' claim that they originated in a "Land of the Gold-Guarding Griffins." The griffin, a mythological animal with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle, can be seen on many artifacts recovered by archeologists.... Last year, a German-Russian-Mongolian team made another spectacular find in the permafrost of the Mongolian side of the Altai Mountains near the Russian border. In a stone-covered mound, the archeologists discovered the frozen remains of a Scythian warrior who died some 2,500 years ago. The partly mummified, completely clothed warrior is also displayed at the exhibition, his armament and other equipment well preserved...."


September 2007


Eight years after discovery, La Doncella displayed in Salta (

"The maiden, the boy, the girl of lightning: they were three Inca children, entombed on a bleak and frigid mountaintop 500 years ago as a religious sacrifice. Unearthed in 1999 from the 22,000-foot summit of Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano 300 miles west of here near the Chilean border, their frozen bodies were among the best preserved mummies ever found, with internal organs intact, blood still present in the heart and lungs, and skin and facial features mostly unscathed. No special effort had been made to preserve them. The cold and the dry, thin air did all the work. They froze to death as they slept, and 500 years later still looked like sleeping children, not mummies. In the eight years since their discovery, the mummies, known here simply as Los Niños or “the children,” have been photographed, X-rayed, CT scanned and biopsied for DNA. The cloth, pottery and figurines buried with them have been meticulously thawed and preserved. But the bodies themselves were kept in freezers and never shown to the public — until last week, when La Doncella, the maiden, a 15-year-old girl, was exhibited for the first time, at the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, which was created in Salta expressly to display them. The new and the old are at home in Salta. The museum faces a historic plaza where a mirrored bank reflects a century-old basilica with a sign warning churchgoers not to use the holy water for witchcraft. Now a city of 500,000 and the provincial capital, Salta was part of the Inca empire until the 1500s, when it was invaded by the Spanish conquistadors...."


September 2007


Tattooed and mummified Maori head to be repatriated to New Zealand (

"A U.S. museum returned the tattooed head of a Maori and bones from 13 others Monday, the latest repatriation of indigenous remains from overseas museums, a Maori expert said.... Representatives of Maori tribes took part in the ceremony, along with staff from The Field Museum in Chicago and American Indian First Nation tribal members.... The repatriation makes The Field Museum one of the first major U.S. museums to return Maori remains, many of which Westerners collected when Maori offered mummified heads in a grisly exchange for guns and other goods. Hakiwai said it would be a long, slow process for museum researchers seeking to confirm which tribal area the remains had been taken from in the late 19th century. It was impossible to tell at this stage whether they were from slaves or cherished family members. Maori activists have urged museums worldwide for years to relinquish such human relics, saying it's a matter of showing respect to the dead and to Maori...." 

Tattooed and mummified Maori head to be repatriated to New Zealand (

"John Terrell considered the severed head of a New Zealand native an inappropriate display piece, so the then assistant Field Museum curator carefully lifted it from a glass case and placed it in storage away from public view. More than 35 years after that bid to provide some semblance of dignity to the deceased, the disembodied Maori head - face tattooed and hair intact - is being returned to New Zealand along with bones from at least 13 other individuals. The repatriation makes The Field Museum one of the first major U.S. museums to return Maori remains, many of which westerners collected when Maori offered mummified heads of deceased loved ones in a grisly exchange for guns and other goods. Terrell and another official from the museum, which held the human remains for decades, were due to formally hand over their collection at a Monday ceremony in Wellington, the capital of the Pacific island nation...."


September 2007


The mummy of West London (

"Two sisters have kept their dead mother in an undertaker’s fridge for ten years — so they can visit her mummified corpse every week. Devoted Josephine and Valmai Lamas could not bear to bury mum Annie after she died in 1997, aged 84. And they have shelled out more than £10,000 to keep her in cold storage at a funeral parlour. The pair make separate weekly visits to sit with Annie in the parlour’s chapel. The body, originally treated with formaldehyde, now has a skeletal bottom half and a top half of brown leathery skin stretched over bone.... They have also coughed up more than £2,000 on five wooden coffins — as four have rotted away over the years. A further £800 has been spent on make-up, taking the total bill for Annie’s “upkeep” to £13,600...."


September 2007


Woman lived with mummified body of aunt for a year (

"An Austrian woman lived with the mummified remains of her aunt for a year after she died at age 96, Vienna police said on Wednesday. Officers found the corpse under a blanket on a bed after ignoring the 51-year-old niece's claim that her aunt was sleeping and should not be disturbed, a police statement said. A preliminary inquiry had determined that the niece, who was taken to a psychiatric hospital for examination, may have covered up the death for financial reasons, it added...."





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