The technology has helped the researchers to look through bandages
and inside mummy cases that have never been opened, take images of
amulets and statues stored with the body, and reproduce those
objects for display at the exhibition "Ancient lives, new
discoveries" which opens on May 22.
"We're getting much greater precision," said John Taylor, assistant
keeper of the museum's Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, from
which the eight mummies forming the exhibition were taken.
"It used to be very difficult to work out the age of death within
less than 20 or 30 years and now we are able to pinpoint it very
precisely to within a couple of years." he told a news conference on
One mummy whose casket had never been opened is that of a female
named Tamut who lived in Thebes at about 900 BC. Inscriptions on the
casket say she was a "chantress", or singer, for the god Amun,
probably at the Temple of Karnak.
With the aid of 3D imagery the museum has been able to make a model
of a small falcon that was sealed inside the casket along with the
body. It will be displayed along with other objects and scanned
images of her mummified body that the museum hopes will allow
visitors for the first time to feel like they are "meeting" a person
who lived thousands of years ago.
"I personally think Tamut is the star of the show, she has such a
wonderful array of objects inside her case, we have the inscriptions
saying all about her life, we have her name, what she really did,"
"We can show objects and say this is the kind of thing she would
have held that brings you very close to these ancient people in a
way that nothing else could do."
Daniel Antoine, the museum's
curator of physical anthropology, said the scans had even detected a
buildup of plaque in a mummified artery. If part of that had broken
away and entered the blood stream, it could have caused death by
stroke or heart attack, he said.
[to top of second column]
Scanners and X-rays have been used since the 1960s to pry into cases
and through bandages of mummies in the museum's collections, but
recent advances in technology have allowed researchers to dig deeper
and get more detail than ever before, and to make 3D visualizations
which are a huge help to understanding, the specialists said.
The eight mummies come from Sudan and Egypt and span a period of
time ranging from 3,500 BC to 700 AD, which covers everything from
pre-dynastic Egypt to well after its absorption into the Roman
They include mummies that were properly mummified, according to the
process that as Taylor put it includes taking out the brain through
the nose and removing the other internal organs, and other bodies
that were simply preserved by burial in sand.
Each will have its own space in the exhibition. Visitors will be
able to watch images taken by scanners as they peel through caskets,
bandages, skin and to the interior of the body, and see artifacts
associated with each.
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.