Ancient bodies: the interplay between ancient culture, spiritual beliefs and mummification

My symposium "Ancient bodies: the interplay between ancient culture, spiritual beliefs and mummification" was accepted by the Scientific Committee of the 9 World Congress on Mummy Studies.

Raffaella Bianucci, Despina Moissidou, Dong Hoon Shin

Mummification implies the intention to preserve the dead’s features. Scholars have extensively focused their attention on the environmental conditions and embalming practices- that allowed the process of mummification to occur- and to the study of the ancient pathological conditions and life habits. A broad scientific knowledge has been acquired. On the other hand, the interplay between past populations- witnessed by their mummified bodies- and their afterlife world has been less investigated. Apart from the Egyptian civilisation that has received much attention over the past 200 years, the cultural contexts and the spiritual needs of past populations to maintain their ancestors’ identities have been investigated to a lesser extent. Mummy experts from different regions of the world are called to reconstruct the cultural/spiritual background of past populations introducing us into their lost worlds through the analysis of the corpses they left behind. Contact points and divergences in the cult of dead across the world will be pinpointed and the results of the seminar will be summarised in a report, the scope of which scope is to help scientists gain awareness of their own actions in the scientific field.

Iwona Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin
Jane A. Hill
Dario Piombino-Mascali
Alterauge Amelie
Guido Lombardi
Niels Lynnerup
Kathleen Day
Shin DH, Song MK and Ki HC


A Neo-Confucian Concept for World after Death and Accidental Mummification in East Asia

Dong Hoon Shin, Mi Kyung Song and Ho Chul Ki

Bioanthropology and Paleopathology Lab, Institute of Forensic Science, Seoul National University College of Medicine, South Korea (; Department of Clothing Science, Seoul Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea (

Studies on Joseon mummies have provided researchers with invaluable scientific data about Korean people and society in history. In fact, amazingly well preserved mummies became one of the best subjects from which we could obtain the information of health and disease status of Joseon people. However, as for the exact mechanism of mummification, Joseon mummy is quite different from the other naturally or artificially mummified ones.  Rather, Korean mummies are formed by unique sociocultural factor: the formation of Joseon tombs with lime-soil mixture barrier.
Recent reports about mummies in China, those of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, might also be of similar origin from cultural perspective. Constructing the tombs in accordance with neo-confucianist axioms might have been the socio-cultural background of mummification commonly shared by Korea and China in history. Actually, the people of both countries did not hope to make their ancestors mummified at all. Constructing the lime-soil mixture barrier around the coffin was to protect the infiltration of insects, plant roots or robbery into the tombs. However, unexpectedly enough, their ancestors were mummified in the tombs by so far unknown mechanism and thus discovered by archaeologists after several hundred years of burial. Natural mummification affected by sociocultural factor: this was the possible cause of mummification observed accidently in some of the pre-modern tombs of East Asian countries. 


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