2,000-year-old mummy goes through 21st-century scanner

Aug 01, 2006
2,000-year-old mummy goes through 21st-century scanner
The 3D image created from the scans

Oxford University researchers have used full-body scanning, usually used for medical reasons, to look at a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy from the University’s Ashmolean Museum.

On the 29 July, the researchers put the mummy through a CT scanner at the MRI unit of the John Radcliffe hospital to find out what was under the bandages. The scanner is usually used to produce medical images of patients. They then created a 3D image of what the mummy looks like from the scans.

The Egyptian mummy is around three feet long and is a child. Little was known about it before the scans, but afterwards the radiographers could see that it was male (the penis is still preserved), aged between four and seven. Further analysis will enable them to find out more about its state of health and the cause of death.

The project combines art, medical science and archaeology: it is a collaboration between Oxford University medical scientists who are also radiographers at the John Radcliffe hospital; the University’s Ashmolean Museum; and artist Angela Palmer, who intends to create a glass artwork based on the scan.

The small child lived in the Faiyum region of Egypt during the early Roman Imperial period, about 1,900 years ago. Mummified in the traditional Egyptian fashion, and carefully wrapped in linen bandages which form a lozenge pattern decorated with gilded studs, the child was one amongst the many infants buried in the vast cemetery at Hawara. The site was excavated by one of the founding fathers of Egyptian archaeology, Flinders Petrie, in the winter of 1888–9.

Sometimes the presence of toys in a grave from which there are no surviving human remains is the only evidence for the burial of a child. In the case of the Ashmolean’s mummy, the museum had the body but no other information – until now.

While adding to the growing picture of how people lived and died in Roman Egypt, the mummy will also play a part in artist Angela Palmer’s ongoing work generating etched glass images from anatomical scans. Angela will engrave the scans of the mummy’s body onto sheets of glass. She will then transform the multi-layered sheets into a three dimensional recreation of the body. The results will be displayed in the Ashmolean museum in a joint presentation in which the unknown child from Hawara will take on new life in both the archaeological and the creative sense.

Source: University of Oxford

Explore further: Unique entry complex discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hospital tests reveal the secrets of an Egyptian mummy

Nov 02, 2011

An ancient Egyptian mummy has had quite an afterlife, traveling more than 6,000 miles, spending six decades in private hands, and finally, in 1989, finding a home at the World Heritage Museum (now the Spurlock ...

Recommended for you

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

Dec 20, 2014

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist ...

Digging up the 'Spanish Vikings'

Dec 19, 2014

The fearsome reputation of the Vikings has made them the subject of countless exhibitions, books and films - however, surprisingly little is known about their more southerly exploits in Spain.

Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

Dec 17, 2014

A new species of short-necked marine reptile from the Triassic period has been discovered in China, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xiao-hong Chen f ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.