Friday, August 05, 2005

Iron Coffin

On today's Morning Edition, NPR reported the opening of an iron coffin that probably dates back to a few years before the civil war. NPR is so cool.

They thought (from X-rays taken prior to opening) it would be a 13-year-old girl. But now they thing it's a 13-year-old boy. Now, I know from the little archaeology class I took at ol' 'Deis that you can tell how old a body was at the time of death from things like the molars and the extent of bone growth. (Because when they found the Hobbit-like hominid in Indonesia last year, they knew that it was an adult, fully grown to about 3 feet tall, rather than a normal-sized child.)

I also know that you can tell male from female from several cues, like the size and shape of the pelvis. There's also a distinct shape of the jaw that's particular to men. You'd think this would be recognizable in an X-ray. (By the way, isn't iron--the coffin--inpenetrable to X-rays? I should go back to physics. Maybe that's lead.) But probably since this kid wasn't quite done with puberty, those physical cues haven't appeared yet, and it's harder to tell.

They talk on the NPR blurb about the morality of opening someone's coffin, and whether it's disrespectful, but I think the archaeologist had a good answer to that: nobody knows who this person is. By opening the coffin they'll be able to find out this person's story, and they'll have a legacy, rather than being forgotten in time. It kind of makes me wish I'd read Fortune's Bones.

No comments:

Post a Comment