Ultimate Guide: Mummies
is not quite as interesting as its title might suggest and the lack of dramatic storytelling seems to be the reason.
This hour-long, fact-filled special is a departure from previous
Guides, but its trademark computer graphics and animation contribute less to the topic at hand than its previous topic, animals.
This special, generally well produced and directed by Karen Bishop, takes viewers to archeological digs in England, Scotland, Egypt and Peru, but none of these venues is as glamorous as the golden King Tut finds.
Many early mummies were not wrapped, as we're accustomed to seeing them. Although a corpse can be reduced to a skeleton in months, some recovered bodies were well-preserved after 2,000 years in the peat bogs of England, or even 3,500 to 5,000 years in the parched sands of Egypt.
Narrator Will Lyman explains that the hot sands dried all of the body fluids and killed bacteria that would normally eat flesh.
As author Herodotus described in a rare written account from 450 B.C., Egyptian mummification entailed removing all internal organs but the heart, then wrapping the corpse tightly in yards of linen bandages, glued with molten tree resin, all to keep insects out.
In 1994, Ronald Wade and other scientists used that account to try their hand at mummifying a cadaver donated to science. Rechecking six years later, they found that process did indeed impede decay.
In northern Peru, scientists learned, by testing hair from mummies, that a tribe existed
primarily on corn-with no indications of a marine diet, despite their location near the coast. But people living in the same region today are primarily fishermen, Lyman notes.
More recently, in 1924, the Soviet Union used a version of mummification to preserve both Lenin's body and his Communist ideology.
There's now even a "digital mummy," used for medical practice and for designing NASA spacesuits, Lyman said. In 1994, the body of a prisoner executed in Texas was used as the model, cut in four sections and then sliced in layers to be digitized.
The Ultimate Guide: Mummies
will bow on Oct. 30 at 8 p.m.