Monday, April 14, 2014

News, Part (1): British Museum scanning Egyptian mummies to reveal ancient health problems

Modern medical technology is giving researchers startling new insights into the lives and deaths of ancient Egyptians. The British Museum has used sophisticated scanners to examine eight mummies in their collection, enabling curators to examine faces not seen for thousands of years, and uncover ancient medical problems. We spoke to one of the key researchers on this project, John Taylor, ancient Egypt and Sudan curator at the Museum.

The British Museum has a very large collection of mummies: over 80 from Egypt and 40 from Sudan. Most of them are still wrapped up in their bandages, explains Taylor. He told VoR: “We don’t want to disturb the wrappings because it is a very destructive process. We don’t want to disturb the bodies more than necessary to discover information about the past.

“For us the main way to learn from these mummies is to subject them to non-destructive investigations and we do this by using hospital CT scanners. Egyptian mummies in different parts of the world have been examined with these scanners but the technology is moving forward very rapidly.”

“We chose eight mummies from the collection here. Each of them has been fully scanned on a very up-to-date piece of equipment. And that has given us amazing images of everything that is inside the wrappings and the coffins.”

“We are trying to give people a sense of what it was actually like to live along Nile three, four, even five thousand years ago. We want to look at these mummies as individuals and try building up some understanding about their actual life experience.

“We want to know how old they were when they died, their physical appearance, their height, their health, what illnesses they might have suffered from. You don’t get a lot of information about it from written sources. So the mummies are the most important way of discovering that kind of information.”

“With the new scans we can focus on the small details of the skeleton, like teeth or the joints in the pelvis. From that you can make an accurate assessment about how old the person was when they died.”

“We are discovering about their state of health. We tend to think of ancient Egyptians as people who created amazing monuments, temples, colossal statues. When you start to look at the state of their health, you realize that often these were done against the background of constant pain and discomforts from terrible dental abscesses and a whole range of diseases.

“This changes your whole perspective on them because it increases your admiration for what they have achieved because they were doing this under conditions of severe compromise in terms of their health.”
 Source: Voice of Russia 

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