ARCHAEOLOGYs March/April 2009 cover story, "A Mummy's Life," tells of new research on the mummified remains of an Egyptian priestess named Meresamun who lived in Thebes around 800 B.C. Meresamun is the highlight of an exhibition, The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt, on view at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute Museum through December 6. In advance of the show, Meresamun was scanned using a state-of-the-art Philips Healthcare 256-slice Brilliance iCT scanner. (As the mummy glided into the scanner, a message automatically generated by the machine told Meresamun, "Take a deep breath. Now hold it.") Meresamun is the only mummy ever subject to such advanced technology, which allowed researchers to virtually strip away the outer layers of paint from the cartonnage (linen and plaster) coffin, and see through the linen wrappings on the body and reveal the skin and bones beneath. Among the findings, the images showed five roughly oval-shaped amulets on Meresamun's body: one covering each eyelid, one at the neck, one on the chest, and one at the back. They also revealed that her brained had been removed and that her throat had been stuffed with dense wads of packing material. Meresamun had no cavities, but the top layer of her tooth enamel had been worn down by the grit in Egyptian bread, which was made from stone-ground flour.
The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) wants to help K12 educators bring the fascinating subject of archaeology into their classrooms as a springboard for teaching scientific methods, critical thinking and writing, and analytical skills across the curriculum. Our Lesson Plans (www.archaeological.org/education) include several classroom excavation projects: Layer Cake Archaeology, Transparent Shoebox Dig, Shoebox Dig, Schoolyard Dig, and the Mystery Cemetery Project. Through simulated excavations, students solve puzzles, have fun, and learn skills that apply to many disciplines. The Lesson Plans (available as free pdf downloads) provide teachers with templates to follow or adapt, including detailed instructions, pitfalls to watch for, bibliographies, student handouts, and grading rubrics, as relevant. Our cake and shoebox digs are aimed at elementary grades, mostly K-3, but can be adapted for later elementary grades through Middle School. The Schoolyard dig is suitable for high-school students. The Mystery Cemetery Project is adaptable for ages 10 to 110, but teachers must use their own discretion and knowledge of their students, since the excavation and analysis of burials is a culturally sensitive issue.
In a remote corner of Arnhem Land in central northern Australia, the Aborigines left paintings chronicling 15,000 years of their history. One site in particular, Djulirri, the subject of "Reading the Rocks" in the January/February 2011 issue of ARCHAEOLOGY, contains thousands of individual paintings in 20 discernable layers. In this video series, Paul S. C. Taçon, an archaeologist, cultural anthropologist, and rock art expert from Griffith University in Queensland, takes ARCHAEOLOGY on a tour of some of the most interesting and unusual paintings—depicting everything from cruise ships to dugong hunts to arrogant Europeans—from Djulirri's encyclopedic central panel.