Western University AntropologyWestern Social Science

Research Breathes New Life into Mummies

By Communications Staff
Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Using computed tomography, more commonly known as CT-scans, a research team at The University of Western Ontario hopes to unravel the mysteries of three Egyptian mummies on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum.

Nelson Mummy News
The CT-scans, which generate three-dimensional images of internal matter, are expected to deliver basic details to the researchers, such as gender and date of death.

It is also possible that artifacts, such as jewelry and amulets may be discovered beneath the bandages.

“This exercise provides us with a very exciting opportunity to use the latest in what medical science has to offer to breathe new life into these messengers from the past,” says Andrew Nelson of Western’s Department of Anthropology and a research associate of the ROM.

Nelson serves as a project co-leader with Western anthropology professor Christine White and Rethy Chhem of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and London Health Sciences Centre. Roberta Shaw, the Assistant Curator of Egyptology at the Royal Ontario Museum, is another member of the team.

One mummy was excavated by legendary Egyptologist Henri Edouard Naville from Deir el-Bahri (“The Northern Monastery”) in 1906-07. Found in the coffin of a low-ranking “wab-priest,” the adult mummy dates from the 21st Dynasty of Egypt, or about 1000 BC.

The mummy is five feet in length, with as many as 18 layers of bandages. The skull is damaged and hair exposed and partially detached from the skull. While the coffin the priest came from is inscribed for a male, the mummy may not be male. This is one of many mysteries the CT-scan is expected to solve.

The two other mummies are infants. One dates from the Roman Period in Egypt and is covered by a painted shroud, which is frayed at the edges and is 22 inches in length. This mummy was acquired by ROM founder Director C. T. Currelly sometime before 1910. The second mummy has been partially unwrapped. There are no markings to indicate anything about it.

Photo Credit: London Free Press