Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

NOVA Online (click here for NOVA home)
The NOVA Challenge
Challenge Directory

Ice Mummies

You chose answer 6.

All of the above.

Correct. Here's why...

Injecting formaldehyde and wood alcohol into a corpse's veins.
This is the embalming process used to preserve bodies in most modern funeral homes.

Exposing to high temperatures, dry soil, and low humidity.
This process, called desiccation, is responsible for the preservation of hundreds of Native American mummies in the southwestern United States. Without moisture, the bacteria and fungi that cause decay cannot thrive.

Removing the internal organs, packing the body in natron, and then smearing the body with warm resin and wrapping it in long linen strips.
This is how the ancient Egyptians fashioned the most famous mummies of all. Natron is a type of salt that was used to suck water out of bodily tissues.

Burying in cold, deep, stagnant water that contains natural acids.
These are the conditions that have produced nearly 2,000 "bog mummies" in Ireland, England, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Russia, and the island of Crete. Some may have accidentally perished where they were found; others may have been buried there. Some show signs of violent death. The bogs' stagnant, oxygen-free water, plus the acids given off by peat moss (especially tannic acid), create an environment unfriendly to decay-causing bacteria.

Freezing the body and its internal organs.
Many mummies have been preserved by ice, which seals out both the air and moisture that decay-causing bacteria need to thrive. Perhaps the best known is The Iceman, the tattooed, late Stone Age mummy found in the European Alps in 1991.

Test your knowledge against next week's night-stalking Challenge!


Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated October 2000

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site