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Canadian Scientist Loves Mummies

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Ancient Egyptian Sarcophagus; Image: Buffalo Museum of Science
Ancient Egyptian Sarcophagus; Image: Buffalo Museum of Science

Heather Gill-Frerking is a Canadian scientist who loves working with mummies.

Mummies are the preserved bodies of humans and animals.

Gill-Frerking is the director of science and education for the Mummies of the World exhibition which opened at the Buffalo Museum of Science on April 12.

“The best thing about working with mummies is that there are lots of questions, and I cannot always find the answer,” Gill-Frerking said.

“We use CT scans (a type of x-ray) to look inside the mummy, just as a doctor would do with a patient in the hospital,” she added. “We can tell how old the person was, and whether they were healthy.”

The exhibit is one of the largest exhibition of mummies ever put together. It has 45  human and animal mummies that have never been seen before. It also has things that were buried with people, like jewelry and small statues and precious artifacts. Artifacts are products or art pieces that show a specific time period or style.

Besides the mummies and the artifacts, the exhibit explains how people were mummified: sometimes naturally because of the weather or air around their bodies, and sometimes with human help.

For example, when great leaders died in Egypt thousands of years ago, their family or their subjects would bury them in tombs with their favourite things, or objects that people thought would keep them safe after death. King Tut was an Egyptian king whose body was found with wooden sculptures of him as a boy as well as riches of the time.

“Some people think mummies are scary,” Gill-Frerking said, “but I like to learn about how that person lived hundreds or thousands of years ago.”

Egyptian Cat; Image: Ancient Egyptian Sarcophagus; Image: Buffalo Museum of Science
Egyptian Cat; Image: Ancient Egyptian Sarcophagus; Image: Buffalo Museum of Science

Curriculum Connections by Jon Tilly

Discussion Prompt
Quite often, people get frustrated when they cannot seem to find the answer. However, Gill-Frerking explains, “The best thing about working with mummies is that there are lots of questions, and I cannot always find the answer.” How can mystery, itself, be rewarding?

Reading Prompt: Comprehension Strategies
What prior knowledge did you have about mummies before you started to read today’s article. How did your prior knowledge help you understand the article as you read it? How was your understanding of mummies, and the scientists who study them, expanded?

Primary, Junior and Intermediate
Identify a variety of reading comprehension strategies and use them appropriately before, during and after reading to understand texts (OME, Reading, 1.3)

Grammar Feature: Verbs
All sentences must include a verb. Some verbs tell an action while other tell a “state of being.” Action words include physical and mental activities while state of being words tell what something, or someone, is. Examples of verbs that tell a state of being include: am, are, is, was, etc. In this way, the sentence, “She is very bright” includes the state of being verb “is” by telling her “condition.”

Circle all of the verbs that tell an action and underline all of the verbs that tell a state of being in today’s article. Remember, every sentence must include at least one verb!