Alan Curry
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Science in Egyptology
The scientific study of Egyptian mummies, initial phase, 1973–79
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A pioneering team of academics, medical consultants and scientists was brought together by Rosalie David in 1973 to scientifically investigate Egyptian artefacts and mummies in the Manchester Museum collection. In addition, an inadequately documented mummy in poor condition (Mummy 1770) was selected to be unwrapped and investigated internally. Several new scientific techniques were to be utilised in these studies including computer tomography (CAT scanning), electron microscopy (TEM, SEM and analytical EM) and radiocarbon dating. In addition, established techniques were also used, such as histological examination of mummified tissues to look for evidence of disease, conventional X-ray examination, dental studies, fingerprinting, entomological and parasitological studies, analysis of the textiles used to wrap mummies and reconstruction of skulls and faces. The recreated facial features of Mummy 1770 was one of the highlights of the project and this was undoubtedly due to the skills of team-member Richard Neave. As little was known about the exact process of mummification, some experimental mummification processes were tried on dead laboratory rats and mice. This initial phase of the Manchester Mummy project lasted from 1973 until 1979 and overall it was a great success giving many new insights into ancient Egyptian life, diseases and customs. The results of the various investigations were published in scientific papers, several books and a number of films (including one for the BBC Chronicle series). Sadly, it is unlikely that all aspects of this project could be repeated today, particularly using NHS facilities.

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Mummies, magic and medicine in ancient Egypt

Multidisciplinary essays for Rosalie David


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