Sociology of Death: Mummifying Ancestors in Toraja, Indonesia

Family members hold up a mummy before giving it new clothes in a ritual in the Toraja district of Indonesia’s South Sulawesi Province, August 23, 2012. The ritual, called Ma’nene, involves changing the clothes of mummified ancestors every three years to honor love for the deceased. Locals believe dead family members are still with them, even if they died hundreds of years ago, a family spokesman said.

Words via Yahoo News. Image via REUTERS/Yusuf Ahmad.

Otzi the Iceman

More on Ötzi the Iceman. The South Tyrol Museum of Archeology reports that Ötzi is a “wet mummy”. This term refers to the fact that Ötzi’s cells have retained humidity even after 5,000 years. The Museum’s website documents that:

The body tissue is elastic and suitable for performing detailed scientific investigations. Moreover, he is a natural mummy, unaltered by burial rites or other interventions. The Iceman with his complete clothing and equipment provides a snapshot of Stone Age life in Europe.

In the video above Dr. Albert Zink, Director of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at Eurac, Bozen, talks about how Ötzi’s cells are being used in DNA studies. He has said:

the decoding of the Iceman’s genome offers us a unique opportunity to make important discoveries about the genetic bases of so-called common disorders such as diabetes and circulatory system diseases.