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Jun 14 / Jon

Mummies and Gorillas in Barcelona

Translated by Juliana Stifelmann.

The texts chosen here are fairly straightforward, but I chose them because it is interesting to see how news reporting is done in other countries, as far as what they find pertinent to say, to explain, and their reaction to certain occurrences as contrasted to North American newspapers. Therefore, the specific purpose of the translation is to inform North American readers of events in Europe, letting them in to Spanish culture by seeing how things are reported from their point of view.

Source texts: “Dieciocho momias de Tebas muestran por primera vez sus rostros en Barcelona” and “Nace en el Zoo de Barcelona el primer gorila de España criado sin intervención humana”.

Eighteen mummies from Tebas, Egypt, are displayed for the first time in Barcelona.

Anthropological and radiological study was done on 18 mummies from the ancient city of Tebas, in Egypt.

  • They have been abandoned since the 1940s in a tomb in the city of Luxor.
  • The mummies are from the Third Intermediate Period (1069-525 BC).
  • The Catalunya Museum of Arqueology is hosting this exhibition.


The investigation of an international multidisciplinary team made up of archaeologists, doctors, anthropologists, and radiologists from Spain and Germany, has allowed us to see for the first time, the face as well as unpublished information of the 18 abandoned mummies from Luxor.

A 1940s issue of the New York Times appears with one of them. The results of the investigation are shown in the Barcelona headquarters of the Catalunya Museum of Arqueology. The exhibit will be open from this Friday until September 5th. The Project was co-produced by the Catalunya Museum, the International SEK University, and the Egyptian Eberrnhard Karls Institute of the Tubinga University, who work in the tomb of the Monthemhat governor. (7th Century BC).

The excavations began in the ancient tomb complex by indication of the Egyptian Antique Service, which had been used for storage and was also the location in which the mummies had ended up for an unknown reason. The mummies, which belonged to the funeral complex workers, probably ended up there in the 40s (along with one of them is an old issue of the New York Times), abandoned by the North American Archaeologists.

This investigation has been the first one to count on a radiological study at the tomb. One of the investigators and curators of the exhibit, the Egyptologist Montserrat Rius, has explained that each individual has undergone several studies: “macroscopic, anthropometric with a sex diagnostic, paleontological, photographic, and radiological”. In fact, “this investigation has been the first to use a radiological study done on foot, so they could install a Philips BV bracelet apparatus, which has come specifically from Holland, on the porch of the ancient Luxor American House. The apparatus is also shown at the exhibit.”

In order to complement the study, a Carbon-14 study was also performed, added Rius, to find the levels of lead and arsenic in the hair and the history of some of the mummies’ organs. All these analyses and investigations allowed us to find out the sex, illnesses throughout their lives, lesions after death, and the type of mummification done. This corroborated to the fact that they belonged to the Third Intermediate Period (1069-525 AC) and “were contemporary to Monthemhamt.”

The condition of conservation they were found in varied, as some were in excellent condition, but some were found incomplete. After the exhibit section dedicated to the process of mummification and the beliefs of ancient Egypt, some life-size photographs of the mummies are displayed, with a detailed explanation of their pathologies.

In the case of the “forgotten mummies”, it is surprising that “none of them present the expected frequency of visceral extraction, common in the mummification process of the time. This is odd since they seem to have been noble people, judging from the area of origin, their clothes, the amount of gold and the amulets found”, explained the palaeontologist Joaquim Baxarias.

Only two cases have been able to confirm the extraction of the brain via the nose, and in another, the extraction of abdominal organs thought the right side of the body. This fact, underlines Baxarias, one of the curators of the exhibit, differs from historical sources that find a high level of development in the mummification techniques of the time.

“The first Spanish gorilla raised without human intervention is born at the Barcelona Zoo”

Machinda the gorilla with her baby in the Barcelona zoo.

  • The baby, granddaughter of Snowflake the gorilla, was born on February 28th
  • There will be a voting process on Saturday to choose the baby’s name
  • Choices are: Babul (tender), Gum (March), Kikile (soon) and Nvom (hopefully).


The gorilla has no name yet, but it is an attraction at the Barcelona Zoo. Last February 28th, one of the babies was born, the grandson of the legendary Snowflake. The work of caregivers and the conservation team have made it so that this baby gorilla is the first in Spain, and one of the few in Europe, to not have human intervention to ensure their survival, either at birth or during its lactation period.

Machinda has been able to bear her young among the other gorillas, without being separated or receiving training. The new baby, which was presented to society on Friday, was born “as if it were free”, the zoo assures us. His first appearance was in the rain, in the arms of her protective mother and under the watchful eye of his father. There haven’t been many opportunities to see them, due to the small size of this new gorilla and her mother’s protective instinct. Still, the baby gorilla sits in his mother’s arms, surrounded by brothers, cousins, uncles and its father.

Until now, a birth like this would have required the intervention of caregivers and even needed training of the mother to learn to care for and nurse the baby, an instinct that is lost after many years in captivity.

The mother, baby, sibling and father’s behaviour is absolutely normal, as it would if they were free. Thanks to the work of zoo keepers, Machinda could give birth to her young among the other gorillas, without being separated or receiving training. She is now breastfeeding and raising the child with the help of family members, without requiring human help.

Lluís Colom, leader of the keepers of the Barcelona Zoo, has rated the outcome as “very positive” and recalled that the previous captive breeding conditions caused the mothers’ milk to be lost because the animals were very easily stressed” and the offspring might have had to breastfeed with bottles. Now, “the behaviour of the mother, baby, siblings and of the father is absolutely normal, as they would if they were free”, Colom explained.

This Saturday, there will be a voting process to choose the name of the baby gorilla. For now, four options have been selected, all in the original Fang language from Snowflake’s native region: Babul (meaning soft), gum (March), Kikile (soon), and Nvom (hopefully).

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Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada
This work by Spanish 401, UBC, Professor Jon Beasley-Murray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada.