Preserving a Mummy
Part 2 (back to Part 1)
The next scientific challenge was ensuring her continued preservation. A
specialized team of archaeologists and anthropologists quickly assembled to
debate how to preserve Juanita's delicate body and the textiles which
surrounded her. The team agreed to keep Juanita in a freezer at about 0 to 7
degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 80%, similar conditions to those
found on Ampato's icy summit. But there was a greater challenge still to come.
The delicate Incan textiles remained attached to her frozen body. The team had
to carefully remove the numerous textiles without damaging Juanita or the
textiles themselves. To minimize the chance of thawing, Juanita's time outside
the freezer was at first limited to thirty-minute sessions. This time was
slightly increased when Dr. Chavez agreed to surround Juanita in ice packs.
Progress was meticulous and slow, especially when they struggled to free the
textiles from Juanita's clutching hand. But eventually the team succeeded—preserving both her fragile body and the fragile textiles she clung to.
Juanita now remains preserved in a glass freezer—the result of a large
corporate donation. This state-of-the-art chamber carefully balances the
inside and outside humidity levels to avoid condensation.
The exhibit of Juanita in Washington, DC brought thousands of visitors. But most frozen
mummies cannot be displayed in the same manner as Juanita because of the
enormous expense required for such a chamber.
Most—like the Iceman found in
Austria in 1991, other Incan mummies such as the El Plomo mummy found in 1952
and the young Mt. Aconcagua boy found in 1982—will remain locked away at
scientific institutes, carefully preserved.
Meanwhile, Reinhard and Chavez wait for additional funding to enable further
study of Juanita. They hope to build a large climate-controlled room so they
can both study Juanita and keep her preserved at the same time. They hope to
invite scientists with numerous specialities from all over the world. They
hope to learn more about Juanita's frozen secrets.
Mummies of the World |
The High Mummies |
Preserving a Mummy |
Photos: (1) courtesy The Mountain Institute; (2) courtesy Chris
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