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The bones that took two-and-a-half years to clean


Out of all the bones I have had, this one has been the longest to write about ! Above are the bones a week or so ago (and an atlas bone from a seal as well !) but it took two-and-a-half years to get them like this. These bones are so interesting that I have written three posts about what I did and what I found.

When I was in Northern Ireland in April 2010 Granddad said he had found something. He asked if I was interested in some dog bones. I said definitely yes, so we went in the car together and then walked into a deserted field. He showed me where it was. It was underneath a hay bale, and I thought it would just be bones, but it was mummified which is not the prettiest thing to see. That's why the next picture you need to click on it and hold down to see it properly, and don't do it while you're eating your dinner !

Very gross image. Click and hold down to see the full picture or click here to see in a new window.

This was gross but it was an incredible find ! It was obviously a dog, and it had been mummified so the skin was dried out like cardboard or papier mache. The legs were almost intact, but the left femur (thigh bone) was exposed. You could see the ribs through the skin. There was an empty eye socket and the ears were still there. But the weird thing was that if you turned it over the skin on the other side had rotted away so it was like a jelly mold.

This was weird and gross and amazing all at the same time because I had never seen anything like it before. I was to immediately take it home. Mum did not like it at all and said we couldn't bring it home. Dad said we should take it home. In the end dad won the argument, and he found a crate to bring it home with. We packed it in the boot and hoped that it wouldn't get searched getting on the ferry.

We brought it home and mum said it was DEFINITELY not allowed in the house so it was kept in the shed. No-one could work out what to do with it. It would have been amazing to leave it in the form it was, but it would have had to have been in a sealed glass container so air and moisture couldn't get in. Dad wondered whether he could make a resin cast of it but it looked too difficult. It was going to be difficult to rot down as well.  

It was left for almost a year in the shed without me deciding what to do. Then I got the email from Professor Sue Black who is in charge of CAHID, who invited me up to see the dermestid beetle tanks. When I was there I asked whether the beetles could eat mummified flesh and they said probably yes. So I took it up there in March 2011. By that time moisture had got into the skin and it was slightly mouldy. This is what it looked like.

Another very gross image. Click and hold down to see the full picture or click here to see in a new window.

It took ages and ages in the beetle tank, like months. Even when it came back it still had some soft flesh on it. The best thing was though that mummified skin sticks to the bone and is difficult to get off so the beetles basically did a good job. When the bones came back they still weren't ready so they went into the shed for another year ! By that time some water had leaked in.

Then I was given a really good way to clean bones, but I was told to keep it a secret. I used this technique. This is what the bones looked like before:

The technique is quite slow. Afterwards I put them in a bucket to rinse out

Then I put the bones in my S6 cleaner (read more about it here):

This is what they looked like before the first wash.

This is what it looked like afterwards:

There is lots and lots to write about this skeleton, but here is the first surprise. It wasn't a dog ! It was a fox ! It looked so different while it was mummified, but it was obvious when the bones came out.

Next week I am going to write about all the things I found out when I did a proper post-mortem on the bones !

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Psydrache said...

I don't know why but I can not open the two cross images.

Jake said...

Dad has added an extra link under each of the pictures to see the full version. Does that work now ?

Psydrache said...

Yes, now it works, thank you! Wow, thats one ugly but interesting looking mummy! ;D

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