One of my all time favorite movies is The Mummy…the 1999 version starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz (to all the purists out there, I’ve never seen the original with Boris Karloff, sorry). There’s just something about the story that gets me every time: clumsy, lovely librarian becomes intrepid adventurer, travels to ancient city with handsome rogue, accidentally awakens evil mummy, saves the world, falls in love. Mummies, and the ‘how’ and ‘why’ they become that way, are, in a word, fascinating. What’s even more fascinating is using 3D printing to uncover their secrets, like the Neswaiu mummy in Stockholm or the Maidstone Museum mummy, Ta Kush. Starting this weekend, a mummy that’s believed to be over 2,000 years old, and her 3D printed skeleton, will go on display at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The mummy, nicknamed Annie, for “anonymous,” was believed to have been buried between 200 and 250 BCE. Annie is on loan from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, where she first arrived in 1903, and the is headliner of the traveling “Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science” exhibit, which has visited museums in Philadelphia, Washington, and Massachusetts, to name a few. Her traveling companion for nearly a decade is the conservator of the exhibit, Mimi Leveque, with the Peabody Essex Museum. Leveque checks on Annie every step of the journey, inspecting her linen bindings and foot coverings for travel damage, and says that she was only a teenager when she died and was mummified, then placed into a sarcophagus covered in hieroglyphs.
“I feel very close to her, even though we don’t know a lot about her personally. You’ve got the gods of the underworld printed here to protect her passage into the afterlife,” said Leveque.
When Leveque first saw Annie, her mask and feet, clad in sandals that resemble flip-flops, looked “completely flattened,” after being on display for decades, but she was able to restore her with the help of other scientists.
Leveque said, “This comes from a place Akhmim in Egypt. This is the mummy of a teenage girl. She was probably a fairly young teenager maybe 16, 17 years old.”
CT scans taken of the mummy showed a missing kneecap and displacement of vertebrae, so scientists assume that Annie fell into the Nile River and drowned, which explains her colorful sarcophagus. Usually this type of special burial treatment was reserved for pharaohs or priests, but because the river was sacred to the Egyptians, Annie now has a special place in history. Her outer shroud is deep pink, and her sarcophagus, in addition to the hieroglyphs, also features a painted snake. Annie’s body wrapping was adorned with a painted-on necklace, which “corresponds to pieces of a dried flower necklace she was wearing for her burial in the side of a cliff.”
“As you can see, she’s got a lovely burial. Look at this gorgeous mask with her gold face and her big red lips. I think she would’ve been very happy with it,” said Leveque.
Noted forensic sculptor Frank Bender, in order to give the mummy a face, took a 3D X-ray image of Annie, and then a 3D printer created a plastic mold of the skull. Bender was then able to add in individual features, and gave her a smile, with a short haircut. This sculptural bust, as well as a 3D printed skeleton of Annie, are on display near the mummy itself.
Leveque was asked if it was a common practice to take CT scans of mummies.
She answered, “Thanks to modern technology, being able to bring a human element to someone from thousands of years ago is becoming more prevalent.”
The “Lost Egypt” exhibit is broken up into a total of four interactive sections, including a display of Egyptian clay mugs, jars, and plates, and several rooms filled with hieroglyph tomb murals. There is also a section devoted entirely to mummified animals, and an educational video that details how Egyptians, just like Annie, were mummified. The exhibit also includes a life-sized rapid prototype that shows the mummy an “unwrapping” stage, along with the 3D printed skeleton of Annie, and her forensic facial reconstruction. Kim Cavendish, the president of the museum, said that Annie’s mummified remains are a “great teaching tool”:
“To be in the presence of a mummy and to feel that sort of a sacredness is a little bit overwhelming. I find it very exciting, and I think it will be for our guests as well.”
The “Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science” exhibit will open at the Museum of Discovery and Science this Saturday, February 4th, and will close on April 30th. Admission to the special exhibit is $13-$16. You can check out this video to learn more about Annie. Discuss in the Mummy forum at 3DPB.com.[All Images: Mike Stocker, South Florida Sun Sentinel]