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Egypt to Test Tutankhamun Mummy for Cause of Death

Science Archaeology Egypt Tutankhamun

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#21 Godeskian

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 04:27 AM

eryn, on Nov 16 2004, 08:34 AM, said:

I'd thank you to not generalize so much, have a spiffy day.

You've missed my entire point. I'll keep my opinions exactly where they are.

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#22 QueenTiye

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 09:51 AM

It is an interesting topic.  I am of the opinion that there is no completely right answer, although I agree with Steven_Q in principle.

I'd like us to think about this in the case of the Ancient Egyptians.  They had a belief system that caused them to conduct burials the way they did - and that belief system involved the need for their physical remains to remain intact.  They did a VERY good job of this, at least for the upper eschelons of society. Now, years later, with their religion a bygone faith, people of other faiths simply dig up their bodies for their own convenience.  

There are other beliefs that hold to the need for a physical body.  For instance, some protestant Christians do not believe in cremation, because they believe that their bodies will be changed into incorruptible flesh and raised from the grave when Christ returns.  My own faith system says that the body should be laid to rest with respect, as it once hosted a human soul.  In my faith tradition - desecrating a human body is like desecrating a church or other sacred space.  How would I feel, or how would a Christian who believed in the physical resurrection of the dead feel about their bodies being treated this way by people who regard their beliefs as curious oddities they are not bound to respect?

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#23 gaius claudius

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 10:48 AM

Steven_Q, on Nov 13 2004, 02:34 PM, said:

That's your choice Chakotay, and I realise that io'm in the minority here.

And yes, I consider the cast majority of Archeologists to be grave robbers.

Let me ask you this, if I asked you for the adress of your families cemetary so I could go dig up your relatives and put their skulls on display, would you be okay with it?

I wouldn't.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


The for me, it  would be yes..here's the shovel..That's not said facetiously, its just in my belief system, it doesn't really matter any more...I understand the difficult feelings involved. .and I do believe ancient burial sites should be respected..but I also feel that that erspect should be balanced by what we may learn, and if said group or gov't give their permission, I can learn to deal


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#24 Dev F

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 10:49 AM

Handmaiden07, on Nov 16 2004, 09:51 AM, said:

I'd like us to think about this in the case of the Ancient Egyptians. They had a belief system that caused them to conduct burials the way they did - and that belief system involved the need for their physical remains to remain intact. They did a VERY good job of this, at least for the upper eschelons of society. Now, years later, with their religion a bygone faith, people of other faiths simply dig up their bodies for their own convenience.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

To me, this seems like too much of an abstraction -- expecting us to adhere to a principle even when the meaning behind the principle has altogether vanished.

I absolutely see the value in respecting other people's religious beliefs even if I don't share them. It's about not imposing your beliefs on someone else, which if you believe in civil liberties is an inherently important thing. But I don't think it applies in this case.

Simply put, the ancient Egyptians are all dead. As far as I know, there is no one still alive who believes in the things the ancient Egyptians believed about the afterlife. And yet we're being asked to honor their beliefs even though it no longer matters to them whether we honor them or not. You can't impose your beliefs on someone who is no longer around to be imposed upon.

Or to put it another way: Others have asked if I would be okay with someone digging up my family plot and experimenting on my loved ones' remains. Of course I wouldn't be; I'd be furious. But in a thousand years, when I'm dead, and everyone who knew and loved my family is dead, and no one cares about any of us except in the most abstract humanistic sense, I see no problem with it if it serves some scientific or scholarly good. (And even if I did have a problem with it now, well . . . I wouldn't in a thousand years, because I'd be dead.)

Edited by Dev F, 16 November 2004 - 10:56 AM.


#25 WildChildCait

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 11:18 AM

I'm actually With StevenQ here...let the dead rest in peace.
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#26 QueenTiye

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 11:35 AM

Dev F, on Nov 16 2004, 10:49 AM, said:

To me, this seems like too much of an abstraction -- expecting us to adhere to a principle even when the meaning behind the principle has altogether vanished.

in what way has the principle vanished?  Belief in an afterlife means that you've taken precautions to ensure that certain things happen after you die.

Quote

Simply put, the ancient Egyptians are all dead. As far as I know, there is no one still alive who believes in the things the ancient Egyptians believed about the afterlife. And yet we're being asked to honor their beliefs even though it no longer matters to them whether we honor them or not. You can't impose your beliefs on someone who is no longer around to be imposed upon.

In the case of the Ancient Egyptians, who built quite a lot of their culture around their anticipation of death and life after death - I disagree.  They made clear provision for their bodies that we know about long after their deaths, and in fact, they wanted us to respect them, and took extra pains to ensure that we did.  

Quote

Or to put it another way: Others have asked if I would be okay with someone digging up my family plot and experimenting on my loved ones' remains. Of course I wouldn't be; I'd be furious. But in a thousand years, when I'm dead, and everyone who knew and loved my family is dead, and no one cares about any of us except in the most abstract humanistic sense, I see no problem with it if it serves some scientific or scholarly good. (And even if I did have a problem with it now, well . . . I wouldn't in a thousand years, because I'd be dead.)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


That may possibly be because you don't have any belief system that makes that something to care about.  But  - do you know for a certainty that the Ancient Egyptians who's bodies are being disinterred don't care? By that I mean... do you know what happens to a human soul after death? Do you believe in a human soul?  And, if you don't, but acknowledge that others do... at what point  are you actually released from respecting their afterlife wishes?  

I agree that scientific knowledge has some claims on the present.  We disinter modern bodies for the purpose of scientific investigation.  But we do it with respect, we reinter the bodies, and we take precaution that we are respecting the wishes of any surviving family, and of the person themselves.  For instance - I don't believe that we disinter bodies from crowded cemetaries and cremate them...at least I hope we don't!

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#27 Beldame

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 01:12 PM

If we hadn't investigated their tombs, we wouldn't know much about the Ancient Egyptians. Even most of the art and written materials comes from their tombs.  That also goes for whole periods of history (like Dark Age Britain) when there are no written records. Relationship of burials to settlements, mortuary rites, grave goods, causes of death, diseases, medicine, diet..there is just so much that can be learned from this form of archaeology.

Yes do it with respect because we are all mortal. With a great deal of respect and care if there are surviving relatives who could be hurt. But if we don't look, we can't learn.

(And yes I do believe in the human soul, and if I ever look back from some afterlife and find I've made a contribution to historical knowledge I will be thrilled)
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#28 Cheile

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 03:42 PM

i must agree with Beldame here.  archaeologists don't dig up tombs to destroy them--they dig them up to discover new things not yet learned.  museum displays are set up for educating people who otherwise would not know about these ancient cultures.

think of how much history has likely been lost due to sites being destroyed or even peoples who didn't keep written history of any form.  thankfully most peoples did but there are likely hundreds, maybe thousands, who did not. (best example....Native Americans and their many many tribes)

i, for one, am fascinated with ancient Egypt.  but none of the excellent books i've read would be available without the knowledge that excavating many of those tombs gave us.

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#29 Themis

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 05:57 PM

I'm not sure whether I believe in a soul or not, but I don't believe that a soul would be worried about its earthly vessel 3,000 years after it last inhabited said vessel.  

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#30 QueenTiye

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 06:02 PM

^^I know.  But I'm still asking the question.  Is it our beliefs or the beliefs of the deceased that matter most?

Like I said - I think there is a balance to be struck, but I don't shun out of hand the notion that there's a respect for the dead that needs to be maintained just because we can learn something from digging up some bones.

In this case - why are we trying to find out the cause of death on King Tutankhamun?  What does that contribute to our learning?  Does whatever we stand to learn outweigh yet one more violation of his burial rites?

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#31 Themis

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 08:01 PM

Handmaiden07, on Nov 16 2004, 11:02 PM, said:

^^I know.  But I'm still asking the question.  Is it our beliefs or the beliefs of the deceased that matter most?

Like I said - I think there is a balance to be struck, but I don't shun out of hand the notion that there's a respect for the dead that needs to be maintained just because we can learn something from digging up some bones.

In this case - why are we trying to find out the cause of death on King Tutankhamun?  What does that contribute to our learning?  Does whatever we stand to learn outweigh yet one more violation of his burial rites?

HM07

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


It's always valuable to learn the real cause of death of political figures.  And when the deceased is over 3000 years old and has no more than, perhaps, a few sequestered people today practicing his beliefs if any (and who knows if he really believed it anyway), I'd say our beliefs matter most.  The respect comes in with how we treat those bodies and bones.  Just digging them out of a 3000 year prison, or even 1000 year prison, isn't necessarily disrespectul.  IMO.  Nobody would learn anything if bodies and bones weren't treated with care.  Some people believe animals have souls.  Should we leave all those dinosaur bones where the animal died?

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#32 Rhea

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 11:18 PM

Chakotay, on Nov 13 2004, 10:13 AM, said:

Yet the old Egyptians did it all the time, for the gold. And because they didn't believe all that stuff.

It'll be an interesting test for modern forensic techniques. If they can figure it out, woe betide more modern killers....

Didn't x-rays of his skull suggest a hard impact did for him? There were plenty who didn't like his father's new religion, and the family bloodline. He did have to change his name from TutankhATEN, didn't he?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I wish they'd do the same for Akhenaten's mummy (well, assuming we know which one it is :p). There's a nice little mystery....

I'm surprised the Egyptians agreed. After centuries of robbing their own dead for fun and profit, they've become surprisingly stuffy about anything to do with disturbing mummies. There's nobody more self-righteous than a convert. :p :p
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#33 Rhea

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 11:20 PM

Handmaiden07, on Nov 16 2004, 03:02 PM, said:

^^I know.  But I'm still asking the question.  Is it our beliefs or the beliefs of the deceased that matter most?

Like I said - I think there is a balance to be struck, but I don't shun out of hand the notion that there's a respect for the dead that needs to be maintained just because we can learn something from digging up some bones.

In this case - why are we trying to find out the cause of death on King Tutankhamun?  What does that contribute to our learning?  Does whatever we stand to learn outweigh yet one more violation of his burial rites?

HM07

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Gee, yeah, let's just toss the whole field of archaeology right out the window, beause why do we want to learn from the past anyway? Nothing to see there, just a bunch of old bones.  :devil:  Why would we care how they lived or how they died or what we might have in common with them?
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#34 tennyson

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 11:21 PM

His mummy has already been examined, I'll see if I can find the relevant passages about it in an online format to post.
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#35 Orpheus

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 11:49 PM

IMHO, it's our beliefs that matter, period, and not the beliefs of the deceased.  Otherwise, we're in a quagmiore we can't dig out of.

That may sound brutal, but it doesn't mean we'll automatically disregard the wishes of the deceased. It just acknowledges that if we respect those wishes, it is SOLELY because OUR values say that we should. In other words, we can't get away from the impact of our values, which inevitably decide our actions, but we may not actually have more than a guess at their opinions.

Few people would consistently or coherently argue that the dead actually have opinions. Ithink that'd be a tricky stand to take conistently. If Grandpa loves his car, and I give it away, that's a crime; if Grandpa loved his car all his life, but now he's dead, giving it away is my option, no matter what he wants. Someone living must always decide [Corporations, government, and other artificial persons included]

It's a premise of estate law in every contemporary system I know of: the dead have NO rights, but we will make reasonable efforts to attend to their wishes out of respect, and the understanding that someday our own wishes will be given similar consideration.

If the dead no longer hold opinions (or at least don't care very deeply about earthly concerns), then it's like asking which should carry more weight: your values now, or values I happened to hold once, but may not even hold myself anymore. It's not an even balance IMHO.

If the dead do hold strong, important opinions and rights of a weight comparable to those now living... well, I'm going to have to quit mocking TV mediums,  and we're going to have to rewrite a lot more than just our estate laws. In fact, we're going to need new government positions to protect and respect those right: Cabinet posts or Deceased Justice of the Supreme Court. That kind of thing.

I hope my irreverent tone doesn't offend any deeply held views, but to be honest, I don't see how it can avoid doing so, given the nature of the views many people profess to hold deeply. Let's just say I'll apologize for the offense, but not my views. Obviously, no one has to accept that apology.

#36 Delvo

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 11:57 PM

The way to avoid this kind of thing in the future is to end burial, which also happens to be a silly, pointless waste of perfectly good ground in the first place anyway.

#37 QueenTiye

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Posted 17 November 2004 - 01:39 AM

I'm arguing the case here for two reasons. First, I think that Steven_Q makes a good point that doesn't deserve to be categorically dismissed, and second, I do indeed believe in durable wills....

Rhea makes fun of my argument by suggesting that the entire field of archeaology be done away with.  I never suggested anything like that.  There are lots of things to dig up without digging up bones, and there are lots of cultures that bury their bones in such a way that it's impossible to avoid digging them up, even in the natural continuation of the work of living on the planet.  I'm only urging caution about how we handle dead bodies, and, what we bother them  for.  

Indeed, my argument falls on its face if we had no archeological work that tells us what the dead bodies are even there for.    But - since they are there, and now that we do know, I do think we have an obligation to not treat them frivolously.

Orpheus states that only our values matter, because our values are the values of the living.  I can agree with that to some extent. I would then argue that it is our own values that we are violating when we don't think twice about disturbing the resting place of people we know went out of their way NOT to have their resting places disturbed. At minimum, given our understanding of the ancient Egyptian beliefs, mummy remains should be sacrosanct unless we've got good reason to be disturbing them.  

Beyond that - the assumption that souls care about their disturbed bodies need not be confirmable by mediums... the idea that souls continue existence and concern about their bodies does not include any correllary idea about how those souls communicate that to us.  That said - we have a tradition of respecting the last will and testament of someone.  I am having trouble understanding when we consider the last will and testament to be invalidated.  No one alive to care anymore seems like the expiration date, and I'm challenging it.  I'm not saying its wrong - I'm just urging us to think about it.

In New York City, the African Burial Ground project was one that stirred up some controversy.  Finding them unleashed a wave of learning about what slavery in the NORTH was like, and allowed for a groundbreaking project of dna testing them to see if they could be linked to someplace in Africa.  The research done was tremendously insightful - and it is my belief that the ancestors there - my ancestors in a symbolic if not actual blood sense, would have approved the research.  But the longstanding fight to have them reinterred respectfully opened old wounds.  The remains were finally reinterred in a solemn homecoming ceremony on October 4, 2003.

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http://www.huarchive...net/blakey1.htm
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Themis argues that the lives of public figures are always subject to somewhat unfair scrutiny.  Agreed.  My argument isn't that we should never do it - but that we should think long and hard before we do, and especially, about HOW we do.

Delvo says we should abandon burial altogether. {{{{{{{Delvo}}}}}}}} That's a uniquely Delvo-type solution...  and I'd agree if my religious beliefs left me a choice in this matter.  They don't.  I've a religious requirement to honor the vessel that houses my soul with a respectful burial.  And, as I said, some beliefs center (as did the Ancient Egyptians) around a belief of the bodily resurrection.  Since burial rites are typically intrinsically wrapped up in religious ideas, I don't think that solution will fly until we stop caring about religious freedom...

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#38 Norville

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Posted 17 November 2004 - 02:13 AM

Steven Q said:

And yes, I consider the cast majority of Archeologists to be grave robbers.

As someone who was deeply fascinated by the study of archeology, and even had a chance to go on a weekend dig (just to see if the class could find any Indian remains on a site being dug out by CalTrans, although it was unlikely that any had been missed by the professionals), I cringe in shame... and part of me cringed back then, too, especially after a Native American (Amerind) spoke to a class and let it be known how angry he was about archaeological practices. However, I loved studying it -- and real, modern-day archaeologists try to maintain provenance of what they're studying, meaning that they don't pick it all up and take it away with them like grave robbers. Or at least they're *trained* not to... ahem... :blush:

FlatlandDan said:

One of my cousins married an Egyptian man and I asked him about the pillaging of the antiquaties of his land. He said that most people he knew really didn't care about the objects. They were just cheesed off that the Brits had taken them.

Something to keep in mind is that modern Egyptians are desperate to find jobs in their frighteningly-overpopulated area, and they really probably *don't* care much about the antiquities, except that tourism brings in money, which they need...

Rhea said:

Gee, yeah, let's just toss the whole field of archaeology right out the window, beause why do we want to learn from the past anyway?

Most people don't, and that's why we tend to know nothing about history -- because it's in the past, it's "so over", and young people tend to think that 5 years ago was ancient history, the airheads. ;)

However, we should be careful with the dead. Personally, I tend to believe that once the spirit/soul/lifeforce is gone, the body left behind isn't the person that mattered (it's just a shell), but there are plenty who disagree, and I respect that. I pretty much *had* to respect that, especially in a class being castigated by an Amerind who didn't like the disrespect having been shown his ancestors' remains, don'tcha know.

Handmaiden07 said:

Delvo says we should abandon burial altogether.

I can agree with that. Cremation all the way! It takes up less space, and there's something that can be spiritual about scattering ashes. *shrug*

Now, either that, or use the remains as mulch in organic gardening... :devil:

Handmaiden07 said:

I'd agree if my religious beliefs left me a choice in this matter. They don't. I've a religious requirement to honor the vessel that houses my soul with a respectful burial.

I can respect that. However, every time I hear about someone *requiring* burial, I think of how much space is taken up by gravesites, and how cemetaries unfortunately run out of room. I think that Arlington National Cemetary may be running out of room... that can't be good, since it's such "hallowed ground" for us in the USA...
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#39 WildChildCait

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Posted 17 November 2004 - 06:24 AM

Themis... why is the deatth of a political person more important than an ordinary person to you?

you see, i disagree. The death of political people is unimportant...tehy after all have the money for the best of medical care. It is the deaths fo the common people which will tell you about society and its' values.
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#40 Themis

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Posted 17 November 2004 - 10:32 AM

Chaddee, on Nov 17 2004, 11:24 AM, said:

Themis... why is the deatth of a political person more important than an ordinary person to you?

you see, i disagree. The death of political people is unimportant...tehy after all have the money for the best of medical care. It is the deaths fo the common people which will tell you about society and its' values.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


It's not more important but they are the ones in the history books and the ones who are subject to historical study.  Knowing whether a historical figure was murdered or died a natural death is more important to the study of history than knowing whether Joe Blow was murdered or died a natural death, for instance.  Nobody's writing books about Joe Blow and how he died didn't impact the line of succession.  

For sociological purposes, finding out the cause of death of people in the general population has worth, certainly, as does finding out what people ate, what remains show about labor, etc. etc. and lots of those studies are being done.

I'm all for cremation but it would sure be an obstacle to archeologists!  Of course most human societies leave written records now.  And I have no problem with somebody conducting tests on mummies and bones as long as those mummies and bones are treated with respect to satisfy the overall sensibility of society.

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