as a good test to looking back in time for the potential sort of deep time travel with viruses


Senior Member
The quotation comes from Scientists Extract Evidence of Smallpox from 17th Century Mummy

Quotation: The child’s body had no such scarring, so the discovery surprised Hendrik Poinar, Director of the Ancient DNA Center at McMaster University in Ontario.

We were using these mummies as a good test to looking back in time for the potential sort of deep time travel with viruses," he said. "And so we tried to pull out all the viruses and we looked at the reads that we found and, lo and behold, there was variola – some reads of variola – and we thought, 'Oh, that can’t be.'”
Hi everyone! the bold sentence seems a little complicated to me. Does it mean "we were using these mummies to study the timeline of smallpox virus"?
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It is complicated indeed: a messy spoken sentence, but at the same time a complicated scientific statement. 'Test to' is not very natural; make it 'test of'. Ignore 'sort of' as just a filler. It was a test; they were testing whether they could look back in time (looking for viruses), and if they could see viruses that have travelled deep in time, from the distant past to today. (That is, if ones that exist today could also be found in the deep past.)

    Boy Jorge

    Filipino - Philippines
    Wow that's one messy quote! Whoever wrote that should have rephrased it haha!
    But from what I can understand, what he's saying is that they used mummies to look at how viruses work and develop over time. Since mummies are preserved, they are great viable subjects to determine how viruses would live/react in the course of time.

    I would agree with you that generally, what he's trying to say that they used mummies to study the timeline of the virus but a better way to put it, maybe, is that they used the mummies to understand the virus' development/behavior over time.
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