Archaeology and Heritage

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Essam El Saeed

Sources for the Osiris myth include a number of magical healing aspects that resonated throughout the ancient Egyptians' concepts of medicine. Osiris was the legitimate king of Egypt until he was assassinated and dismembered by Seth. Isis used her magical skill to gather his body parts, while Horus was suckled by the goddess Hathor, goddess of protection. The struggle between Seth and Horus had a conceptual influence on some of the principles of medicine in ancient Egypt, For example the gouging out of Horus's eye - “the Udjat” - and its crushing by Seth symbolised for the ancient Egyptians how to determine the dosage of medicine. The eye represented the moon, and its crushing symbolised a breakdown in the order of the universe. Thus, the myth of Osiris served several purposes for the ancient Egyptians. Its main function was to legitimise each king’s ascent to the throne of Egypt, but the myth also provided a divine model for magical healing rituals.

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Life and death in the desert

A bioarchaeological study of human remains from the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt

Tosha L. Dupras, Lana J. Williams, Sandra M. Wheeler and Peter G. Sheldrick

This paper presents a summary of findings from a long term bioarchaeological study conducted on the human remains recovered from the Romano-Christian period East Cemetery (Kellis 2) in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. The environmental conditions and burial practices of this ancient population have created remarkable preservation of archaeological materials and human tissues. Here we focus on the analyses of 724 individuals, combining biological data with that of pathology and stable isotope analyses to create life histories of these individuals. Our results show that the youngest to oldest (16 weeks gestation to 70+ years old), and individuals with all pathological afflictions (e.g., anencephaly, leprosy, tuberculosis) were buried in the Kellis 2 cemetery, reflecting a change in religious ideology and the introduction of Christianity. Skeletal changes also reflect the harsh realities of living in an agrarian, yet desert environment. These life history reconstructions help in understanding how individuals lived and died in this harsh ecological ecozone.

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Iron from the sky

The role of meteorite iron in the development of iron-working techniques in ancient Egypt

Diane Johnson and Joyce Tyldesley

Evidence of the large scale smelting of iron ores in Egypt date to the 6th century BC; strongly suggesting that iron production technologies developed much later in Egypt than in neighbouring territories. However, archaeology has shown that some elite Egyptians were buried with iron grave goods long before iron production became common within the country, such as the iron artefacts discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The origin of the iron used in the manufacture of these artefacts, and the methods by which this iron was worked are little understood. This paper discusses an experimental approach designed to assess the role of meteorite iron in the development of Egyptian iron working techniques. The authors, who first met as student and tutor on the Manchester Certificate in Egyptology programme, are delighted to have the opportunity of dedicating this paper to Professor Rosalie David

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Mervyn Harris

Osteopaenia is defined as a bone mineral density (BMD) lower than that considered normal for the age of a particular individual. It is the result of impaired mineralization and excess accumulation of osteoid. Calcium and vitamin D deficiency, Hyperparathyroidism, chronic malignant disease, Chron’s disease, coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis may cause a decrease in bone mineral density. It can also be the result of the natural aging process. More severe cases of decreased bone mineralization are referred to as osteoporosis but the two conditions are essentially the same. Females are more commonly affected due to the decrease in oestrogen levels accompanying the menopause (postmenopausal osteoporosis). The condition can also result from hormonal and musculoskeletal deterioration of physical systems with age (age related osteoporosis). In the case of mummified remains, accurate determination of BMD using Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) cannot be reliably used, therefore other skeletal indicators of advanced age such as evidence of generalised degenerative osteoarthritis (OA), severe alveolar bone loss due to chronic periodontal disease and ante-mortem tooth loss should be looked for. This paper re-examines radiographs of three mummies from the British Museum, Liverpool and Leiden collections taken by Peter Gray in the 1960’s. All three mummies demonstrated radiographic evidence of osteoporosis in the absence of evidence of other pathologies which could cause the condition.

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Patricia Lambert-Zazulak

The idea to set up the Egyptian Mummy Tissue Bank was conceived of in the context of the worldwide Schistosomiasis Research Project as an opportunity to create a centralised research resource. Initially, its purpose was to help facilitate the study of the paleoepidemiology of schistosomiasis, a disease which has occurred throughout Egyptian history from antiquity to the present day, and for which there are many sources of evidence. This paper will discuss the concept and ethos of the Bank and its foundation and documentation, firstly at the Manchester Museum and later at the KNH Centre. It will describe the research undertaken to locate ancient Egyptian mummified human remains outside of Egypt and the creation of the archive documenting the information thereby obtained. The paper will consider the various techniques involved in collecting the samples loaned as deposits in the Bank, and the administration and recording of this material. Since the inception of the Bank, samples have been carefully selected and allocated for specific scientific research projects in a multidisciplinary environment, thereby ensuring the best chance of obtaining results and conserving the resources of the Bank. The Bank is now a well-established research facility available to the scientific community with the aim of contributing to knowledge of Egyptian mummification and the health and medicine of the ancient Egyptian population. The data thereby produced is reported to the depositors which have generously loaned tissue for deposit in the Bank, as well as contributing to new publications.

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Go west

On the ancient means of approach to the Saqqara Necropolis

Aidan Dodson

The Egyptian ideal was that the physical and ritual journey to the next world would be a consistent one from east to west. However, this was sometimes complicated by the topography of the site chosen for a cemetery. This was particularly an issue where local geography forced a cemetery to be on the east bank – witness the very awkward arrangements seen at the Fraser Tombs at Tihna in Middle Egypt. However, significant issues existed even at such a major west bank cemetery as Saqqara, much of which lay at the top of a steep escarpment, making access from the due east problematic. This paper considers the results of this situation for the layout and development of the Saqqara necropolis over time, with the principal access from the north-east defining the location of many of the earliest tombs there, while the points at which a causeway could practically ascend the escarpment largely defined the places at which pyramids of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties were constructed. These considerations help in assessing the ownership of the ‘L-shaped Enclosure’ and Gisr el-Mudir, in the defining the original setting of the Second Dynasty kings’ tombs and in producing a definitive view of the ownership of the long-debated pyramid L.XXIX. The paper also discusses the purpose and constructional history of the so-called ‘Dry Moat’ around the Step Pyramid enclosure.

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Robert Connolly and Glenn Godenho

A recent paper by Ben Harer in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology on the condition of the mummy of Tutankhamun is a most welcome addition to our understanding of the possible circumstances surrounding his death and embalming. However, Harer’s use of the Computerised Tomography (CT) images produced in 2005 under the direction of Professor Zahi Hawass bear some interesting comparisons with the conventional flat-plate photographic film x-ray images taken by the late Professor R.G. Harrison in 1968. This article brings the 1968 x-rays back into the discussion, demonstrating how some of the observable features contribute to the CT interpretations. In particular, features such as manner of brain removal, condition of thorax, and condition of pelvis are scrutinised.

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Lidija M. McKnight and Stephanie Atherton-Woolham

The Manchester Mummy Project, established by Professor Rosalie David in 1972, pioneered the study of ancient Egyptian mummified remains using a multi-disciplinary approach. As is often the case, human mummies formed the basis of the project, with little research dedicated to the animal mummies beyond cataloguing. Since 2000, research by the authors aided in raising the profile of animal mummy research; in particular those dedicated as votive offerings. In 2010, funding was acquired through the KNH Charitable Trust to continue this early work, leading to the foundation of the Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank. The acquisition of a Research Project Award from the Leverhulme Trust in September 2013 aimed to further the non-invasive investigation of mummified non-human remains using clinical imaging modalities. This paper highlights the role of the University of Manchester in imaging mummified remains, from the humble beginnings in the 1970s to the technology in current use; with a particular focus on how the study of animal mummies capitalised on advances in imaging science, which, in turn, enabled the potential of the techniques to be documented.

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Robert D. Loynes

Roman Period mummies display a wide variety of different wrapping styles, and within this number a relatively small group of so-called Red Shroud mummies can be identified. Two of these are housed in the collection of the Manchester Museum. CT characteristics of these and other Red Shroud mummies are discussed in this paper. Within this cohort, notable features include thoracic distortion and other anatomical damage resulting from embalming practices in the Roman Period. The use of boards and other forms of ‘stiffener’ within the wrappings is also a feature common to several of the mummies. Unusually, in two examples from El-Hibeh, one or more Ibis birds have been included within the wrappings.

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Education, innovation and preservation

The lasting legacy of Sir Grafton Elliot Smith

Jenefer Cockitt

Sir Grafton Elliot Smith is known to many in Egyptology and palaeopathology as an early pioneer in these fields. His work on ancient Egyptian mummification methods and the Archaeological Survey of Nubia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is extensively referenced and quoted. Whilst recognising that his methods were not always perfect by modern standards, there are few who would deny that Elliot Smith played a pivotal role in the development of the scientific study of human remains. Despite this recognition, studies of Elliot Smith’s career in archaeology and anthropology tend to focus on his controversial views on cultural diffusionism. As a consequence, a comprehensive assessment of his legacy to both palaeopathology and Egyptology has yet to be attempted. This paper intends to address this, drawing on a wide range of sources including published work, archival sources, collections data and evidence provided by the human remains he studied.