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3D Technologies Digitally Unwrap Mummies’ Secrets

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3502210900000578-0-image-a-49_1465305909972There is something almost magically fascinating about mummies. Apart from the somewhat macabre notion that you are staring at the wrappings of a dead body, there are notions of the whispered secrets contained within and a connection to a desire for eternity that is irresistible to so many people. Mummy exhibits at museums are supremely popular and nearly every child has gone through a phase in her/his life when they hear the call of Ancient Egypt.

During the Victorian era, people were no less fascinated with these bundles from the past and those with a particularly strong interest, and the funding to engage it, would either host or participate in elaborate mummy unwrapping parties in a misguided effort to learn about the bodies within. Luckily, for mummies and for us, it is no longer necessary to engage in such invasive procedures in order to glean knowledge of the contents of these ancient bandaged bodies.

35021F9D00000578-0-image-a-45_1465305568517With the development of CT scan technologies, the image of what lies beneath the surface has been becoming clearer and clearer. In addition, the quality of the data collected and the 3D images that can be created have been increasing in leaps and bounds. As such, Spanish archaeologists and doctors recently decided to take a peek behind the outer layers of four mummies that were housed in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid. Driven by more than just base curiosity, the researchers hold high hopes that the information gathered will provide unique insight into the lives, deaths, and mummification processes of the bodies and their cultures.

350220E400000578-0-image-a-58_1465306834347Three of the mummies hail from Egypt, a 2,300-year-old adult male and two females, but one of them is of Guanche origin and represents one of the best preserved mummies in existence. The Guanche were a cave dwelling, aboriginal people who inhabited the Canary Islands, and represent the only known group of indigenous people to have lived in the Macronesian Islands before the arrival of Europeans. They practiced mummification on a very refined level and a number of Guanche mummies are in museum collections around the world. This particular mummy was discovered in 1776 in Tenerife. Unfortunately, some of the primary sites for Guanche mummies have been looted, and so those that remain are of great interest for study.

3501E61F00000578-0-Archaeologists_in_Spain_have_used_3D_scanning_technology_to_anal-a-43_1465305568379The mummies were transported with great care from the museum where they are normally housed to the Hospital Universitario  Quirónsalud Madrid in order to be examined with the latest in cutting edge scanning technology. The team included doctors Martinez de Vega, Javier Carrascoso and Silvia Badillo Rodriguez-Portugal, as well as Egyptologist Carmen Perez Die, Teresa Gomez Espinosa and Esther Pons. The entire process was filmed as part of a documentary set to be released next year from RTVE. And while we don’t yet know what discoveries may have been made or theories confirmed, this understanding of the benefits that advanced 3D scanning technology can provide to those studying the ancient dead is becoming increasingly common. This eager adoption of available technology was explained by Egyptologist Carmen Perez Die:

“They are very important pieces and I am looking forward to beginning this new way of studying them with which we will learn many new things about them that until now we could not access.”

Discuss this amazing project further in the 3D Printed Mummy forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Daily Mail/ Images: CEN/Museo Arqueológico Nacional via Daily Mail]

 

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