Cutting-edge technology gives insight into the lives of ancient Egyptians
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/19/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Ancient Egypt with its funerary art and mysterious mummies have long enchanted the modern world. During the 19th Century, when "Egyptomania" electrified Europe, it became common practice to open their cases and unwrap them in front of paying audiences. This unfortunately damaged the mummies forever afterwards. The British Museum then decided to never unwrap mummies in the future. Therefore, a certain amount of mystery would reside with the mummies. New technology, however, is now revealing more about the times in which this artefacts were created.
John H. Taylor along with his colleague Daniel Antoine, the museum's curator of physical anthropology, are standing in the middle of Ancient Lives, New Discoveries, a new exhibition that they have brought together.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The use of X-rays in the 20th century revealed new information about what the mummies contained. The picture remained hidden beneath the wrappings still remained hazy and indistinct. Archaeologists over the past 20 years have brought the contents of mummies into crisper focus by using computerized tomography scanning.
It's the only in the last few years, with the advent of the latest generation of "dual-energy" CT scanners, that they have been able to "visualize" the interiors of mummies - virtually peeling away layers of wrappings, without causing any damage to the surface. The results of this latest research can prove to be startling.
"A CT scanner is a rotating X-ray machine that usually bombards one X-ray wavelength," Antoine explains. "For three of the mummies [in the exhibition], we used a dual-energy CT scanner, which can be set at two different wavelengths," John H. Taylor, a curator at the British Museum specializing in ancient Egyptian funerary archaeology. "That allows you to capture in great detail both the thicker parts as well as very thin parts such as bandages, skin and soft tissue. As a result, we are seeing things now that even three years ago we wouldn't have been able to see."
Taylor along with his colleague Daniel Antoine, the museum's curator of physical anthropology, are standing in the middle of Ancient Lives, New Discoveries, a new exhibition that they have brought together.
A good example of this is the mummy of Tamut, a high-ranking priest's daughter who lived in the early part of the 22nd Dynasty, perhaps about 900 BC. Discovered during the 19th Century, has been in the collection of the British Museum since 1891. Now one has been able to "see" inside its elaborately painted case made of layers of linen soaked in glue, which contains Tamut's mummified remains.
Various things was learned about how she was embalmed. Her hair was cut short, which suggests she wore a wig. For another, the arteries in her inner thighs were coated with fatty plaque deposits - a sign, perhaps, that she enjoyed a cholesterol-rich diet. Like the other adult mummies in the exhibition, Tamut also suffered from terrible dental health.
Her brain was extracted through her right nostril. Her fingernails and toenails were both covered with metal, perhaps gold leaf: "We weren't expecting to find that," Taylor says. "It links to an ancient Egyptian text that says you should put electrum [an alloy of silver and gold] on fingernails and toenails to convey new life, but that's the first time I've actually seen it on a mummy."
Using advanced software that can visualize the data gathered by powerful CT scanners, it was also possible to see a number of the magical objects that the embalmers placed on Tamut's skin and inside her torso. These include artificial eyes, amulets, and four figurines of the so-called Sons of Horus, who were placed within the chest cavity in separate bundles containing parts of her internal organs.
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