Sunday, January 14, 2007

Boxed Like an Egyptian

I don't know how I missed this one. While moving graves in Tennessee last summer, Dan Allen stumbled upon an unusual casket.

Allen and other archaeologists found a pre-Civil War cast-iron coffin shaped like an Egyptian mummy while moving a cemetery for developers at a site on Whites Creek Pike in North Nashville.

“I've only seen three of these in my life,” Allen said. The headstone lay near the site. “It says her name was Mildred Casey, which was her maiden name,” Allen said. Casey was 54-years-old when she died in 1851. [Link]


Hmmmm how did he know what kind of clothing she was wearing without ever opening the casket?

(“The condition of the clothes is almost extraordinary. We normally don't get clothing at all like this in graves. This appears to be a frock coat or suit,” Allen said.)

(It's anyone's guess how well preserved the body is inside. Buzzards circling overhead may wonder, but Allen won't open the casket. He worried about something he called coffin liquor.)


I believe he was speaking about the clothes of Mildred's husband, who was buried next to her in a wooden coffin.

Mildred's cast-iron coffin would have kept in any embalming fluids used, and what was left of the occupant. Straight Dope says that "Most lead coffins contain dry bones but some are found to be about one third full of a viscous black liquid (coffin liquor), which contains bones and (sometimes) soft tissues." Yuck.

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