Authors: S Karodia, JI Phillips, AB Esterhuysen

Source: Journal Of Archaeological Science: Reports Volume 6, April 2016, Pages 24–34


This study examines desiccated tissue samples from mummified human remains removed and excavated from Historic Cave in the Makapan Valley, Limpopo Province using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and light microscopy. A range of methods are employed to clean, rehydrate and stain the desiccated tissue, and the outcomes are compared. Through this comparative analysis it is possible to determine the most suitable method for examining desiccated tissue from Historic Cave. In the SEM analysis, epidermal keratinocytes and vellus hairs were observed on the surface of the skin tissue. Histological analyses demonstrated the exclusive preservation of collagen fibres in the muscle tissue, the connective tissue and the skin tissue. This suggests that the collagen fibres play an integral part in preserving the structure of desiccated tissue that is devoid of cellular elements.
Historic Cave; Makapan Valley; South Africa; Mummified tissue