Archive for maceration

Of Bones: The Ophidian Current

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , on January 25, 2012 by manxwytch

Woodland wanderings and fortuitously connected friends this fall resulted in my happily acquiring a few complete and near complete snake corpses. I am in the process of cleaning them with slightly different methods to ascertain the most effective and efficient way to do so.

One corpse I interred in the back yard for exhumation in the spring. It was the most complete, and least decomposed of the bunch. The others I sealed in ziplock bags and left outdoors until the snows flew, and one by one, Iʼve brought them indoors to finish the disarticulation and cleaning process.

Iʼve had good success with pulling the bones away from the bulk of the putrefying matter and macerating in water, but the smell is an issue indoors during winter when ventilation is lacking. The solution I came upon is to deodorize the osseous material first by letting it soak in a bath of ammonia in a sealed container for a couple weeks, then draining and replacing the ammonia with water to continue the maceration process and loosen up the remaining connective tissue clinging to the bones. During maceration the container was only loosely covered, however there was little to no smell and the water was changed only occasionally, or not at all. After a few weeks the last remaining connective tissues were seen to be falling off the bones when agitated, and a gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush removed all but the most stubborn adhesions. These few were easy scraped away by judicious use of the edge of a blade. The results were clean white, (but not bleached looking), bones that maintained their strength and integrity.

Itʼs going to take a bit of research and work to reassemble the skulls, and a little more to return the vertebrae to their proper order, but my  imagination has already begun to shape the tools and jewels into which these osseous ophidians are going to transform.