Chile's famous Chinchorro mummies, preserved perfectly for more than 7,000 years, are melting into black gelatinous goo because of increased levels of moisture that may be the result of climate change.
Humid air is allowing bacteria to grow, causing the mummies' skin "to go black and become gelatinous," said Ralph Mitchell, a professor emeritus of applied biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who examined the rotting mummies. The rapid deterioration began within the past 10 years, and has affected some of the 120 mummies that are housed at the University of Tarapacá's archeological museum in the northern port city of Arica, the researchers said. It was unclear why some of these mummies started degrading into black ooze, so Chilean preservationists asked Mitchell and his colleagues to study the microflora, or the bacteria, on the mummies' bodies.
Humidity levels in the region of the museum have increased recently.
More: "Scientists strive to save melting mummies" [cbsnews.com]