Archeology Science Technology

Establishing Novel Paradigm With X-Ray Reconstruction Of Egyptian Mummies

Egypt has always fascinated archeologists, researchers, linguistics and the masses alike. A lot of it is attributed to the rich culture, historical significance, the magnanimous pyramids and the mummies.

Even, if you have an iota of interest in history or archeology, you must have heard or even seen pictures of mummy. However, with the recent technological innovation amalgamated with this ancient Egyptian work, a novel paradigm has been established at the Royal Brampton Hospital, London. The process is of scanning of the mummies to witness detailed visualization.

In the recent years as many as 25 mummies have been scanned with the aid of Dual Energy CT Scanner. It is soon to be portrayed at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, by the second week of December. It will be a travelling exhibition called, Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives.

establishing-novel-paradigm-with-x-ray-reconstruction-of-egyptian-mummies2-1Mummy under CT scanner at Royal Brompton Hospital in London.

Imagine witnessing layer by layer of detailed visualization of the reminiscent inside.

mummies-scan-1Left:Visualization of mummy in translucent mode revealing Nestawedjat’s heart (highlighted in pink), amulets on her throat, artificial eyes, and packing materials in her mouth and chest. Right:Image shows that the brain was extracted via the nasal passage and that the same route was used afterwards to introduce textile (here artificially colored in green) into the skull cavity.

In order to give the readers a sneak peek of the exhibition, it will be worth to portray the story of Nestawedjat. The following information was obtained about her from the Dual Energy CT Scanner:

  • She was a married woman.
  • Resided in the ancient city of Egypt-Thebes.
  • She was 5 feet tall.
  • Her demise was in her late 30s or 40s (almost 2700 years ago).
  • Her brain was removed by breaking her nose, after her death.
  • Her heart was believed to be the center of intellect and memory, was taken out and put inside in fine packaging between her legs.
  • Her mouth, her abdomen, her ribcage was filled with packing material.
  • On the eye socket were placed artificial eyes made of stone.
establishing-novel-paradigm-with-x-ray-reconstruction-of-egyptian-mummies7-1Imaging from Nestawedjat’s mummy. Left: The brain was removed from the skull via the nose. The embalmer showed great care not to damage the delicate surrounding bones. Right: Nestawedjat’s body was covered in resin to aid in preservation.

Fantasizing and Amazing! So, much information with the aid of latest in science and technology!

establishing-novel-paradigm-with-x-ray-reconstruction-of-egyptian-mummies5-1The many magical amulets buried with this person, including a metal winged goddess on her throat and a metal falcon on her chest, which symbolizes resurrection.

But, what is it that led to the scanning process of the mummies? Well, there is an interesting story to that as well.

Following the arrival of Nestawedjat in Europe in 1851, the British Museum did not give an affirmation to the local surgeon request for unwrapping of the mummy. It has been since, this involved more of sensationalism than, advancing the knowledge. It was not considered ethical.

However, by the 1980s it was the researchers who started using non invasive X-ray imaging techniques. These made sure to provide with amazing insight, even when the mummies remain untouched. It was immense diligent pursued for the advancement of knowledge.

establishing-novel-paradigm-with-x-ray-reconstruction-of-egyptian-mummies4-1Mummy of two-year-old boy visualized inside his coffin, but without wrappings.

And as of the present by the aid of the data obtained, 3D images are being made. Immense hard work goes into making the exhibition. It requires a lot of patience and sheer love for the same. In fact, in the words of Daniel Antoine, Curator of British Museum of Physical Anthropology – “The CT scan itself lasts 30 seconds, but it takes thousands of hours to segment the layers, to identify where the skin ends and textile begins. It was a labor of love.”

establishing-novel-paradigm-with-x-ray-reconstruction-of-egyptian-mummies3-1Coffins of the six mummies in the exhibition. Clockwise, from top left: Nestawedjat; a priest’s daughter, Tamut; a priest, Irthorru; a young man from Roman Egypt; a two year-old boy from the Roman Period; and a temple singer.

With the aid of the exhibition they intend to portray the science, the anatomy and the life of the Egyptians back then!

All images © Trustees of the British Museum

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