DNA Science Featured with Mummies from The Past

Part of our Thanksgiving family fun included an afternoon at the Charlotte Discovery Museum Mummy Exhibit.STEM Education

My t-shirt purchased at the gift store touts:

Real Mummies. Real Science. Real People.

Large digital screens, some with touch screen interactive quizzes, guide you through the maze of questions scientists face as they explore the past with the aide of modern technology.

As you can experience at the Discovery Place walk through exhibit, it is a unique demonstration that mummification – both through natural processes and intentional practices – has taken place all over the globe, from the hot desert sands of South America to remote European moors and bogs.

Mummies of the World tells the story of the mummies through state-of-the-art multimedia, hands-on interactive stations and cutting-edge 3-D animation taking visitors on a 6,500-year journey to explore the mummies’ history and origins as well as how they were created through both intentional and natural processes. Through computer tomography (CT) scans, researchers have determined that prior to death many of the mummies showed evidence of various ailments and illnesses, some of them endemic among families.

The concept for the exhibition began in 2004 with the German Mummy Project’s rediscovery of 20 specimens within the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums of Mannheim, Germany. A consortium of mummy researchers used DNA analysis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT, radiocarbon dating and mass spectrometry to learn more, and engaged the cooperation of 21 world-renowned museums, organizations and collections in seven countries to make this innovative exhibition possible.

Bringing Mummy Science into Your Classroom

I wish my biotechnology students could see how the technology tools we explore in class through virtual field trips, discussion, and our Science Literacy Cafe activities are digging into the past through a multidisciplinary eye of understanding of the preserved civilizations through MRI, CT, DNA analysis, and radiocarbon dating.

I did some internet digging of my own and pulled up a STEM mummy activity for our students to experience and explore the process before the technology attempts to uncover the mysteries.

Over the holiday break, I will test out the process to see if it is as easy as it seems in the simple instructions and will report back on the outcome. If you find a better mummy classroom activity, please share your ideas so we can take the science of mummies beyond just a reading activity for our students!

~Kay Borglum, MS

Biotechnology and Space Lab Science Teacher (FL)

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