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A burial fit for a Pharaoh

Staff writer

Others would have left the bobcat carcass on the road, but Hillsboro High School student Sonja Jost saw a more noble fate for the lifeless creature. She took it home and put it in the freezer.

She found the corpse, still warm, while driving home. She got a tag from the Department of Wildlife for it, and put it in the freezer to keep until she had time over spring break for her project: Mummification.

She named the corpse Adimaris, which means graceful and noble in Egyptian.

“I figured that was fitting for a bobcat,” Jost said.

Her interest in mummification ignited when she was a child and wanted to learn more about ancient cultures.

“That was the section I went to in the library as a kid,” Jost said. “Ever since I could look at pictures, I was studying ancient Egyptians.”

After getting a heavy dose of learning about ancient cultures in school, from family, and at church, Jost continued learning and expanded to different cultures, including Mayans, Aztecs, and Greeks.

“I was just very interested in the ancient world,” Jost said, “and I’ve never been particularly squeamish around dead things.”

Jost wanted to do the bobcat mummification as authentically as she could compared to how ancient Egyptians did theirs.

She waited for warmer weather to begin the mummification process, and kept it frozen until she was ready to begin.

“The process I am using is the one they would use for royalty and pharaohs,” Jost said. “If you were a lesser citizen, there was a more crude process used. They would fill the body cavity to eat away at the internal organs and pour it out.”

After the body thawed from being frozen, Jost said the first thing she did in the process was remove the brain.

“You do that with a small hook,” Jost said. “I used an embroidery hook. You insert it in the nose and you tap with a hammer to break through the skull and then, kind of at this point, the brain is relatively liquid, so you just stir it up a bit and pour it out.”

After the brain was removed, Jost made an incision on the side of the animal to remove the stomach, liver, intestines, and heart.

The body and four organs were then washed in wine and cedar oil and placed in a salt and baking soda mixture, where they will remain for 70 days.

After the 70 days, the liver, intestines, and stomach will go into canopic jars, which depict the heads of different Egyptian gods that protect different organs.

The only thing that goes back into the bobcat will be the heart, because the heart is important in ancient Egyptian lore.

“They thought the heart was where all your soul and memories were, and they drain your brain like it’s nothing,” Jost said.

Once the 70 days are up, the body also will be packed with spices, and wrapped in bandages that have herbs and spices in them.

The sarcophagus and canopic jars will be made out of paper mache by Jost during the 70 days it takes for the body and organs to dry in the salt mixture.

“At first I was going to mold them out of clay,” Jost said, “but that was very difficult.”

After she is done with this project, Jost said she may try another mummification project, or try another culture’s burial ritual.

Jost’s parents have been supportive of her project.

“They’ve been fine with all of it and I’m really thankful for that,” Jost said. “Where you have creativity it should be allowed to bloom.”

As a junior, college is not too far away, and Jost said that she will most likely enter a science field, and has considered biology or forensic pathology. However, one aspect is holding her back from making a “for sure” decision.

“I really love nature and being outdoors and active and traveling,” Jost said. “I need to travel and being a coroner or forensic pathologist is a one-way ticket to a deep, dark, depressing basement for the rest of your life.”

While her hobby may not be one that many teenagers have, Jost is comfortable in her passions and interests.

“Anyone who trades in death is automatically marked as creepy or deranged and that’s not what it is,” Jost said. “If there wasn’t death then there wouldn’t be any life.”

For others interested in the process, Jost said to not be discouraged by other people and their opinions.

“There are going to be a lot of naysayers and people who don’t understand,” Jost said. “Just do what you’re interested in and eventually it will lead you to who you are.”

Last modified March 29, 2017

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