Case of the rotting mummies

first_img The head of a Chinchorro mummy. Photo courtesy of Marcela Sepulveda “In the last 10 years, the process has accelerated,” said Marcela Sepulveda, a professor of archaeology in the anthropology department and the Archeometric Analysis and Research Laboratories at the University of Tarapacá, during a recent visit to Cambridge. “It is very important to get more information about what’s causing this and to get the university and national government to do what’s necessary to preserve the Chinchorro mummies for the future.”What was eating the mummies? To help solve the mystery, Sepulveda called on experts in Europe and North America, including Ralph Mitchell, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Biology Emeritus at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Mitchell has used his knowledge of environmental microbiology to pinpoint the causes of decay in everything from historic manuscripts to the walls of King Tutankhamen’s tomb to the Apollo spacesuits.“We knew the mummies were degrading but nobody understood why,” he said. “This kind of degradation has never been studied before. We wanted to answer two questions: What was causing it and what could we do to prevent further degradation?”Preparing the mummies “was a complicated process that took time — and amazing knowledge,” Sepulveda said. The Chinchorro would first extract the brains and organs, then reconstruct the body with fiber, fill the skull cavity with straw or ash, and use reeds to sew it back together, connecting jaw to cranium. A stick kept the spine straight and tethered to the skull. The embalmer restored the skin in place — sometimes patching the corpse together using the skin of sea lions or other animals. Finally, the mummy was covered with a paste, the color of which archaeologists assign to different epochs in the more than 3,000 years of Chinchorro mummy-making: black made from manganese was used in the oldest, red made from ocher was employed in later examples, and brown mud was applied to the most recent finds.The first thing that Mitchell and his team needed was physical evidence, something Sepulveda supplied in the form of samples — both damaged and undamaged skin — taken from the museum’s collection. The task of receiving the unusual shipment fell to Alice DeAraujo, a research fellow in Mitchell’s lab who also played a lead role in analyzing the samples as part of her thesis for a master’s degree in biology at Harvard Extension School.It became apparent to DeAraujo and Mitchell that the degradation was microbial. Now they needed to determine if there was a microbiome on the skin that was responsible.“The key word that we use a lot in microbiology is opportunism,” Mitchell said. “With many diseases we encounter, the microbe is in our body to begin with, but when the environment changes it becomes an opportunist.”Mitchell had a series of questions: “Is the skin microbiome from these mummies different from normal human skin? Is there a different population of microbes? Does it behave differently? The whole microbiology of these things is unknown.”The pair isolated microbes present in both the degraded and uncompromised samples. But because the mummy skin was limited, they needed a surrogate for the next step: culturing the organisms in the lab and testing them to see what happened under exposure to different humidity levels. Using pigskin provided by colleagues at Harvard Medical School, DeAraujo began a series of tests. After determining that the pigskin samples began to degrade after 21 days at high humidity, she repeated the results using mummy skin, confirming that elevated moisture in the air triggers damage to the skin.This finding was consistent with something that Sepulveda reported: Humidity levels in Arica have been on the rise.DeAraujo’s analysis suggested that the ideal humidity range for mummies kept in the museum was between 40 percent and 60 percent. Higher levels could lead to degradation; lower ones make equally damaging acidification likely. Further testing is needed to assess the impact of temperature and light.The results will help museum staff fine-tune temperature, humidity, and light to preserve the mummies in their extensive collection, Mitchell said. But he is keen to solve an even larger challenge.According to Sepulveda and others, there are large numbers — perhaps hundreds — of Chinchorro mummies buried just beneath the sandy surface in the valleys throughout the region. They are often uncovered during new construction and public works projects. Rising humidity levels are likely a threat to the unrecovered mummies. The degradation process, relatively controlled at the museum, is worse in sites exposed to the natural environment.“What about all of the artifacts out in the field?” Mitchell said. “How do you preserve them outside the museum? Is there a scientific answer to protect these important historic objects from the devastating effects of climate change?”The solution to preserving the 7,000-year-old Chinchorro mummies, Mitchell believes, may draw from 21st-century science. “You have these bodies out there and you’re asking the question: How do I stop them from decomposing? It’s almost a forensic problem.”In addition to DeAraujo and Mitchell, contributors to the research included Vivien Standen, Bernardo Arriaza, and Mariela Santos of the University of Tarapacá, and Philippe Walter from the Laboratoire d’Archéologie Moléculaire et Structurale in Paris. In the valleys of northern Chile, where the Chinchorro people lived 7,000 years ago, large numbers — perhaps hundreds — of mummies are buried just beneath the sandy surface. Photo courtesy of Marcela Sepulveda Ralph Mitchell, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Biology Emeritus at Harvard, and Alice DeAraujo, a research fellow in Mitchell’s lab, helped determine that humidity played a large role in the deterioration of the Chilean mummies. Photos (left) by Eliza Grinnell/SEAS Communications; (right) courtesy of Alice DeAraujo A complete Chinchorro mummy at San Miguel de Azapa Museum in Arica, Chile. Photo courtesy of Vivien Standen At least 2,000 years before the ancient Egyptians began mummifying their pharaohs, a hunter-gatherer people called the Chinchorro living along the coast of modern-day Chile and Peru developed elaborate methods to mummify not just elites but the ordinary as well — men, women, children, even fetuses. Radiocarbon dating as far back as 5050 B.C. makes them the world’s oldest mummies.But after staying remarkably well-preserved for millennia, in the past decade many of the Chinchorro mummies have begun to rapidly degrade. To discover the cause, and a way to stop the deterioration, Chilean preservationists turned to a Harvard scientist with a record of solving mysteries around threatened cultural artifacts.Nearly 120 Chinchorro mummies are housed in the collection of the University of Tarapacá’s archaeological museum in Arica, Chile. That’s where scientists saw that the mummies were starting to degrade at an alarming rate. In some cases, specimens were turning into black ooze. Slowing the decay of mummieslast_img read more

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John Springer-Miller Inducted into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame

first_imgWith the creation of SMS | Host, a property management system that integrates guest services, John Springer-Miller changed the face of hospitality technology by creating a guest-centric approach to software. For his contributions to the hospitality industry, Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) inducted Springer-Miller into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame at the 2007 Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC®. Opening Session on Tuesday, June 26 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.”The Hall of Fame is, perhaps, the greatest honor one can receive in this industry,” said Springer-Miller. “I am honored to be recognized on the same level as the previous Hall of Fame inductees.”Springer-Miller is CEO of PAR Springer-Miller Systems (SMS), which he founded in 1984. Springer-Miller saw a void in property management systems in the hospitality industry and felt a need to fill it by providing software that is customer oriented and allows properties to collect detailed information to enhance the guest experience. This software, SMS | Host, was created in 1986 and was nationally launched in 1989.Thanks to SMS | Host software, hotels are able to save customer preference information for future visits and increase time management by providing a one-stop shop. Guests can call the hotel, and with a single point of contact, make hotel reservations, set a spa appointment, reserve a golf tee time, book a dinner reservation, inform the hotel about any special needs and more.”Being the founder and continuing leading light of a highly successful, international hospitality property management system vendor for over 20 years is worthy in itself,” said Jon Inge, CHTP, ISHC, president of Jon Inge & Associates and 2006 Hall of Fame inductee. “However, his impact has been the more significant for his focus on producing a highly-integrated product focused on the resort market.””Another visionary concept that Springer-Miller brought to our industry was the users group. Most software companies have a users group, however, he felt that the users group should be owned and operated by the users’ not the software company. Springer-Miller helped organize the Hosts User Group which is owned, operated and managed by the users and welcomes this group’s voice in steering the direction of the software,” said Terry Price, CHAE, CHTP, CPA, executive IT manager at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa and secretary of the HFTP international board. “The success of this venture is self-evident in that many companies are trying to replicate this model.”In 2004, SMS was acquired by Par Technology Corporation to become PAR Springer-Miller Systems. Currently there are five offices around the world in Stowe, Vt., Las Vegas, Nev., London, Toronto and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.The International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame is HFTP’s highest level of recognition in the area of technology. Since its inception in 1989, 28 individuals have received this award as a reflection of their contributions to the hospitality industry. Hall of Fame members have been selected by their peers as representing the best in innovation and application and as leaders in their profession.About PAR Springer-Miller Systems:PAR Springer-Miller Systems, Inc. is a leading provider of hospitality management solutions that meet the technology needs of all types of hospitality enterprises including city-center hotels, destination spa and golf properties, timeshare properties and casino resorts worldwide, setting the pace as a pioneer in the hospitality industry. SMS|Host Hospitality Management System is distinguished from other property management systems with its truly integrated design and unique approach to guest service. The SMS|Host product suite, including more than 20 seamlessly integrated, guest-centric application modules, provides hotel/resort staff with the tools they need to personalize service, exceed guest expectations, and increase revenue. For more information on PAR Springer-Miller Systems, visit our website at www.springermiller.com(link is external).About PAR Technology Corporation:PAR Technology Corporation is a leading provider of professional services and enterprise business intelligence software and hardware to the hospitality industry. PAR develops, markets and supports hardware and software products that improve the ability of hospitality business professionals to make timely, fact-based business decisions. The Company is a premier provider of I/T management solutions to hotel and restaurant companies, with over 40,000 installations worldwide in 100 countries. PAR is a leader in providing computer-based system design and engineering services to the Department of Defense and Federal Government Agencies. PAR Technology Corporation’s stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol PTC. For more information visit the Company’s website at www.partech.com(link is external).About HFTP:HFTP: Austin, Texas, and Maastricht, The Netherlands, founded in 1952, is the global professional association for financial and technology personnel working in hotels, clubs and other hospitality-related businesses. HFTP provides first class educational opportunities, research, and publications to more than 4,600 members globally including, the premiere hospitality technology conference HITEC–founded in 1972. HFTP also awards the only hospitality specific certifications for accounting and technology —the Certified Hospitality Accountant Executive (CHAE) and the Certified Hospitality Technology Professional (CHTP) designations. HFTP was founded in the USA as the National Association of Hotel Accountants. For more information, visit www.hftp.org(link is external).last_img read more

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Prison to palace: Ronaldinho gets five-star treatment in house arrest

first_img And only the best digs will do for the former Barcelona star, who is said to have a net worth of £80million, but has reportedly run into money problems. The room boasts its own balcony, 55 inch smart TV, as well as a whirlpool bath and spacious kitchenette. Ronaldinho’s brother Roberto de Assis Moreira is believed to be in the executive suite, two doors down from the presidential suite. Back on March 6, Ronaldinho and his brother were arrested after allegedly entering Paraguay on fake passports that said they had Paraguayan citizenship. A criminal investigation is ongoing, which has seen a dozen arrests including a Brazilian businessman who gave the former Ballon d’Or winner the passports, as cops probe a potential money laundering operation. While in jail, Ronaldinho celebrated turning 40 and enjoyed a barbecue with his inmates. read also:Breaking: Ronaldinho released from Paraguay prison Should he be convicted, Ronaldinho could face five years in prison. FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmail分享 Loading… The 40-year-old Brazilian legend is staying in the stunning presidential suite at the Palmaroga hotel in Asuncion. Aside from getting a good nights’ rest in the comfortable four-poster bed, he will be receiving five-star room service when he awakes this morning. Ronaldinho under house arrest in a luxury hotel with a rooftop pool, gym, cocktail bar and five-star service in Paraguay. Ronaldinho is out of his high-security jail in Paraguay on bail of around £650,000, but has been ordered to stay under house arrest at a luxury four-star hotel while he remains under investigation for passport fraud. Promoted Content13 kids at weddings who just don’t give a hootA Little Cafe For Animal Lovers That You Will Never Want To LeaveBrother Creates A Phenomenal Dress For His Sister5 Of The World’s Most Unique Theme ParksOnly The Chosen Ones Can Appear On-Screen Even After Their DeathCouples Who Celebrated Their Union In A Unique, Unforgettable WayNothing Compares To Stargazing Places Around The WorldGreatest Movies In History Since 19829 Facts You Should Know Before Getting A Tattoo5 Of The World’s Most Unique Theme Parks7 Non-Obvious Things That Damage Your PhoneBirds Enjoy Living In A Gallery Space Created For Themlast_img read more

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