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Strike a pose.

This monkey hasn't moved an inch in 3,000 years. That might sound like a long time to keep from squirming.

But this animal is a mummy, or a preserved body. And currently, it's sitting behind glass at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

In 1906, archaeologists, or scientists who study ancient cultures, found the mummy inside a noble person's tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. "The Egyptians thought that after you died, your soul traveled from the land of the living to the land of the dead," says Edward Bleiberg, a curator of Egyptian artifacts at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. And what better way to keep kings and queens company in the afterlife, they thought, than to give them their pets, like this monkey, to take along.

How did this primate--a classification of animals that includes monkeys, apes, and humans--stay in such good shape for so long? Normally, when a living organism dies, bacteria feast on its soft tissues. All that munching decomposes, or breaks down, the body, leaving behind a pile of bones. To halt the breakdown, Egyptian mummy-makers followed a careful procedure.

First, embalmers removed the monkey's liver, stomach, and lungs, and stored the organs in separate jars to be placed inside the noble person's tomb. "[Then], the brain was removed through the nose with a metal hook," says Bleiberg. Since the ancient culture didn't know the function of the brain, they considered this slimy organ useless and just tossed it out, he says.

Next, embalmers covered the monkey with natron (NAY-trahn). This natural salt sapped any moisture from the emptied body. Without moisture, flesh-eating bacteria could not survive. After about 40 days, the dehydrated body was ready to be wrapped with strips of linen.

Finally, this cloaked monkey was placed inside its owner's tomb. Good thing it was preserved: Today's museum visitors can see it and imagine what life was like thousands of years ago.
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Title Annotation:GROSS OUT; embalming
Author:Bryner, Jeanna
Publication:Science World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Sep 5, 2005
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