Ultramicroscopic investigation of the preservation status of hair collected from a full-term, intrauterine baby mummy of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea

B. S. Chang, Chang Sub Uhm, C. H. Park, Han Kyeom Kim, H. S. Jung, J. H. Ham, G. Y. Lee, D. H. Kim, K. J. Lee, I. S. Bang, C. S. Oh, D. H. Shin

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Our previous studies on the ultramicroscopic structure of mummy hair from Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) tombs sealed with a lime-soil mixture barrier (LSMB) have provided initial, basic information on their preservation status. Numerous additional cases of various conditions are required in order to provide data sufficient for establishing Korean mummy preservation patterns on a firm basis, however, and so we performed electron microscopic studies on hair taken from a full-term, intrauterine baby mummy found in Paju, Korea. The baby mummy was found within the uterus of a 16th-century mummified woman aged 20-30 years old. Since the labour and delivery stage for this case was 2, and the uterus was found to be ruptured, the cause of death of both the mother and the baby was likely to have been hypovolemic shock occurring during labour. In scanning electron microscopic (SEM) and transmission electron microscopic (TEM) studies, we found that the surface of the hair of the baby mummy was coated with crystalline substances, mainly on the side facing the vaginal orifice. We also observed well-preserved cuticle, cortex and medullar layers, completely preserved cuticle-layer scales, as well as macrofibrils and melanin granules evenly spread within the cuticle and cortex layers. Because studies on infant or subadult mummies are very few, and since they have focused mainly on the palaeopathological aspects of those mummies, the preservation pattern of the hair of a full-term baby mummy could contribute significantly to our knowledge of mummies from around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-631
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Dec 1



  • Electron microscope
  • Full-term baby
  • Hair
  • Korea
  • Medieval mummy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology

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