PUM I Revisited: Tradeoffs in Preservation and Discovery

The Anatomical Record : Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology
Michael R Zimmerman, Molly Gleeson


An Egyptian mummy designated PUM I (Pennsylvania University Museum) was subjected to a complete autopsy in 1972. Forty-one years later, the senior author (MZ) was invited back to the Penn Museum to identify several packages of material that had been preserved with the mummy joining the project conservator (MG) in the evaluation of these remains. A summary of the 1972 examination reviews the dating of the mummy, about 3,000 years ago. The mummy was poorly preserved and the only significant pathology was a rare skin disease, subcorneal pustular dermatosis, which was not identified by modern medicine until 1956. The review of PUM 1, as the mummy is stabilized during conservation at the Penn Museum (previously called the Pennsylvania University Museum), generates a discussion for researchers who embark on the study of mummified remains. There have been major advances in the study of mummies since 1972, including computed tomography (CT) scanning, with much less invasive endoscopically guided biopsies, analysis for ancient DNA (aDNA), nuclear magnetic resonance technology, chemical analysis, and paleoserology. The value of complete autopsy must now be balanced against preservation of a complete mummy by less invasive techniques that...Continue Reading


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