Archaeologists Sent an Ancient Egyptian Mummy Through an Imaging Scanner—Here’s What They Saw
Scientists not too long ago discovered a brand new instrument that allowed them to look inside an historical Egyptian mummy: a high-energy particle accelerator.
The Hibbard mummy accommodates the physique of a younger Egyptian woman, estimated to be round 5 years previous when she died on the finish of the first century A.D. She lived in an agricultural group west of the Nile, and sure died of a illness like smallpox or malaria.
Researchers quickly eliminated the mum from its dwelling in a group on the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University and introduced it to the Argonne National Laboratory, positioned simply outdoors Chicago. There, they used the Advanced Photon Source—the brightest X-ray supply within the Western hemisphere—to look inside with out risking any harm.
Archaeologists have used X-rays earlier than. In 2016, Wired reported that X-rays had been permitting researchers to learn historical texts that had been buried inside mummy-containing coffins. High-definition CT scans have been used to take a look at mummies, too. This, nonetheless, is the primary time a high-energy particle accelerator, which is normally meant for physics-based analysis versus medical or organic, has been used to take a look at mummified stays.
According to an Argonne National Laboratory press launch, the mum weighs about 50 kilos. It additionally accommodates extra than simply the woman’s stays.
The X-ray allowed researchers to look at the wealthy assortment of objects that had been buried inside together with the woman’s physique. Shards, probably from a bowl-like object fabricated from tar (versus glass) had been positioned inside her cranium after the mind was eliminated in the course of the mummification course of. Wires, the character of that are unknown, had been present in her enamel. And a small, mysterious object had been wrapped to her abdomen.
“The resolution on the CT scan is such that we can only barely make out a shape. We think it’s some sort of stone, but we’re not sure,” Olivia Dill, a primary yr artwork historical past Ph.D. candidate who helped conduct the scan, advised PBS NewsHour.
The mummy is famous for its “embedded portrait,” a realistic-looking face painted onto a wooden panel slightly than sculpted right into a facade like mummies in well-liked tradition. That portrait, together with the truth that the mum was totally intact, was what first caught the eye of one of many seminary assortment’s curators and resulted within the analysis staff learning it with the particle accelerator.
“Our main motivation is to use the physical sciences to be able to unpack the technology of art,” Marc Walton, a supplies scientist at Northwestern and one of many venture’s leaders, advised PBS. “We’re trying to get into the mind of the artist to understand why they’re making certain choices based upon the economics of the materials, their physical structure, and then use that information to be able to rewrite history.”