World Archaeology I: World Mummification

ARC00018I

Module leader: Jo Fletcher

Introduction

With the term ‘mummification’ generally applied to human remains which retain their soft tissue (ie. skin, hair, nails), mummified bodies are almost always associated with ancient Egypt. Yet mummies were manufactured on five continents, ie. South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe, in addition to those bodies preserved naturally in the varied environments of desert, ice or bog. Each lecture of this module therefore features examples of the main types of mummified remains, drawing on some of the work carried out by the university’s Mummy Research Group, both in the field and in the museum environment. This is followed by discussion of the way in which specifically Egyptian mummies have been exploited and examined over time, an overview of the main forms of scientific investigation concluding with a case study of modern mummification utilising ancient Egyptian methods of preservation.

Aims

  • To provide a global introduction to mummies and mummification in the past
  • To explore the pathways of natural preservation and methods of manufacture that result in mummification
  • To present a number of case studies drawing upon some of the work carried out by the university’s Mummy Research Group, both in the field and in the museum environment
  • To examine the way in which specifically Egyptian mummies have been exploited and studied over time

Learning outcomes

By the end of this lecture series students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a broad and comparative knowledge of the archaeology of mummification around the world.
  • Discuss and explain the principal archaeological evidence in the area of study and demonstrate a critical appreciation of the potential biases and problems in the interpretation of the evidence, particularly the main forms of scientific investigation employed in the study of mummified remains.
  • Evaluate and contextualise different types of archaeological source material.
  • Critically appraise other people’s studies and produce logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence.

Employability

The World Archaeology modules provide a range of important employability skills including:

  • Self management: because this is a lecture course students need to manage their time carefully, spending about 10 hours a week reading the literature suggested for each topic; this will help when writing the essay and preparing for the exam
  • Communication: students need to develop their written communication skills in this module - writing a clear argument based on evidence from the reading is key to the assessment, and students have chance to practice this in their formative essay in preparation for the exam
  • Problem solving: students need to be able to retrieve, analyse and evaluate information from different sources
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: students will gain knowledge of cultures and customs in other countries and should appreciate the diversity of issues
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