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Mummy Wheat

    Naturevolume 134page730 (1934) | Download Citation



    POPULAR belief in the viability of wheat grains which have been interred in ancient tombs, some times thousands of years old, has during the past few years been severely shaken by morphological and physiological tests on genuine mummy wheat, and also by bringing into question the authenticity of other so-called specimens. But in many people's minds, the possibility of mummy wheat being viable seems still to exist. A survey of this subject was given in NATURE of May 2, 1931, p. 675, where genuine mummy wheat and the more questionable cases were discussed. In NATURE of August 19, 1933, p. 271, an example of some so-called mummy wheat from an Indian tomb was shown to be actually a recent one, the whole idea having been based, at the best, on a misunderstanding. The possibility of tthe inordinate longevity of some seeds clearly never fails to appeal to the imagination. An article review ing work on this subject appeared in NATURE of September 23, 1933, p. 469. On September 6 last, Sir E. A. Wallis Budge offered, through the medium of the Times, to supply samples of wheat obtained from a nineteenth dynasty tomb in Western Thebes, to responsible institutions in order that the germinating capacity of these seeds could be tested. Although the results of all such tests have not been announced so far, attention should be directed to a report by Mr. W. H. Parker, director of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, Cambridge, which appeared in the Times of October 29. After subjecting the seeds to strictly controlled germination tests, every grain had completely decayed within sixteen days, and had become attacked by a growth of mould. Morphological examination of the embryos before the tests had also indicated that the sample was incapable of germination.

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