[Article] An Experiment Assessment of the Cause of Mummification in Joseon Period Burials, Republic of Korea

Our new paper is out in Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia, official journal of Russian Academy of Science (Siberian Branch)-.

This article presents the results of experiments aimed at testing the hypothesis that the mummification of human bodies in Joseon Dynasty burials was caused by an exothermic reaction and the consequent destruction of intestinal flora. Well-preserved mummies of that period were discovered only in the Hoegwakmyo tombs, where the lime-soil mixture barrier was present. Experiments were conducted using animals’ bodies placed in miniature grave models. Immediately after contact with moisture, the temperature inside the coffin surrounded by a lime-soil-mixture increased to 130.8±23.5°C and remained stable for 141.0±64.7 minutes. The examination of bacterial cultures on Mac Conkey or blood agar plates showed that the entire flora normally existing in the rat’s intestine was completely sterilized by high temperature. We also demonstrate that the same mummification can be reproduced regardless of the sizes of miniature graves.