Mummy Returns Baltimore

November 11, 2011 by staff 

Mummy Returns Baltimore, A long-lost mummy has been returned to the University of Maryland after sitting in a police department property room here for years. The mummified remains of a child were confiscated close to Halloween five years ago when officers received a tip that woman here was selling the body on eBay, according to Lt. Duane Loxton, who handled the case as a detective.

The body, with its exposed arteries colored red for use in medical studies, had been resting in a long cardboard box on a rack containing evidence bags.

A Michigan State University anthropologist determined that the remains likely dated from the early 19th century and were part of a collection from anatomist Allen Burns housed at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. The collection was moved from Scotland to the United States in 1820 when one of Burns’ students bought it and got a job in Maryland.

“I’m glad to have the little fella back home,” said Ronn Wade, director of the Anatomical Services Division at the university. The skeleton was carefully packaged Wednesday afternoon and returned to the Burns Collection.

Many specimens from the collection have disappeared through the years.

It is illegal to possess a human body without permission, but no charges were filed against the Port Huron, Mich., woman who told police she was trying to sell the mummy for a friend. The friend had discovered it while demolishing a schoolhouse in Detroit in the 1980s.

Wade said he could tell by looking at the mummy that it was part of the Burns Collection but added it was confirmed by chemical testing of the tissue. The chemical makeup is the same as other remains in the collection, showing the same method in preserving the bodies.

Wade said he appreciated the police department’s care and sensitivity.

“My point was nobody really owns bodies,” he said. “The collection we have from my point of view is under my care and custody. … This is the remains of a human child. It shouldn’t have been bought or sold. It’s not property per se”

Specimens in the collection are historically significant because they show the beginning stages of Western medicine, Wade said.

“It was a different time then. Medicine was just coming about,” he said, adding that the bodies were used to teach anatomy.

While he had to wait five years to get the body back, Wade said the child’s final resting place is appropriate.

“He’ll be back with family,” he said.

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