Many mummies have been discovered worldwide, with a countless number still remaining deep beneath the earth’s surface. Even with consistent manpower since 1917, the amount of mummies discovered to the amount that still remain buried is unbalanced in favor of the undiscovered. Experts are now puzzled with how to handle the sudden degradation of mummies. Archaeologist Marcela Sepulveda sent an email warning of the event, and how dark and bright spots are a warning that mummy tissue is changing rapidly. The museum of the Universidad de Tarapacá in Arica, Chile, faced the degradation issue of a mummy not long after unearthing.
The degradation process can only be slowed by keeping the mummies indoors, and those that are outdoors will decay much faster. This explains why unearthed mummies are already partially damaged, not only because they are not kept in special chambers inside a museum, but possibly because of record-setting climate change. Weather historian, Christopher Burt, weighed in on the issue in 2013, writing that Africa being regarded as the driest place on Earth is a fallacy and that wetter conditions were increasing from 1971 to 2000.
Harvard Microbiologist, Ralph Mitchell, joined a Chilean team to help discover why the degradation process was so rapid, and warned that the weather change, although notable, should not be described as the guaranteed cause for the mummies being damaged. Global climate change caused by humans was not completed refuted, but was also not supported.
Many mummies unearthed in the 1980s were well preserved, but recently the damage has gotten progressively worse. The preservation of mummies is dependent on proving that climate change is the cause, in which case, better methods for protecting these pieces of history can be concocted. One of the original thoughts was that increased moisture in the air led to rapid bacteria growth that targeted the mummies.
By taking samples from the mummies and testing their skin under different conditions, the team should be able to develop a better hypothesis in understanding what the real problem is. Mitchell hypothesized that the bacteria that thrived in these conditions became enabled, thus seeking out any form of nutrients available for survivability. A mummy is a natural choice, and in the end, the bacteria fed off what was left until the lack of nutrients caused the dead to turn literally into dust. The research is still ongoing and not conclusive, but Mitchell is possibly on to something as Harvard recently published the findings. On a related note, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre has been referring to climate change as a problem with official artifacts since 2007, even publishing a report to back it.