The first two ‘mummies’ that made TIME magazine’s collection photos of 15 ‘Mummies From Around the World‘ make me raise an eyebrow and wonder, who considers Lucy and Dikika a.k.a. Selam, a mummy? These two are fossilized remains of Australopithecus afarensis.
Even if you hold a fairly loose definition of mummy, it is, in my opinion, a pretty pitiless mistake to call a fossil hominid, a mummy… specially from a source like TIME. To clarify, in archaeology and anthropology, a mummy is defined as,
“A mummy is a corpse whose skin and dried flesh have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air when bodies are submerged in bogs. “
Furthermore, to add insult to injury, here’s how they caption the Dikika hominid that was revealed last year:
“Hominid Child: The complete skeleton of a hominid child who lived at a key stage in primate evolution more than three million years ago. The child is thought to have died at the age of three.”
Dikika is not a complete skeleton. The Dikika hominid consists of a virtually complete skull, a torso with most of the bones from the upper body such as the scapulae and ribs, and parts of the arms and legs. While the bones that were recovered were remarkably all articulated, it was not a complete skeleton. Many of the vertebrae, the pelvic girdle, and other bones such as the radius and ulna are not in the collection. This sort of yield is expected from a three million year old hominid. But it is not complete skeleton, and a skeleton is not all what a mummy is.
The other twelve that made the cut are what most of the world calls a mummy:
I don’t know too much about this one. People who not only mummify their dead pets but also cast them in bronze are way out there: