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Ancient Egyptian Murder Mystery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Ancient Egyptian Murder Mystery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

23rd July 2009

Investigations into a 1,700-year-old murder mystery continue – after state-of-the-art 21st century techniques were even foiled by the case.

Last December three Egyptian mummies from Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (BMAG) were CT scanned at Mid Staffs NHS Foundation Trust in Stafford in a quest for more information on the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

See some of the scans on our Flickr photostream or visit the 'Mysteries Inside the Mummies' web resource for more images, videos and information about the mummies and the CT scans.

Museum staff were particularly keen to learn more about a ‘metallic’ object in the neck of a Graeco-Roman mummy, discovered on x-rays in 1995, with suggestions it may have been an arrow-head.Instead, the scans have revealed the object is in fact one of three or four fragments – probably metal – lodged in the base of the skull. So the mystery remains.
 
Councillor Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sports and Culture, said: "This is an absolutely fascinating case and perfectly illustrates how new technologies can be used to better understand secrets that have been hidden for thousands of years. The CT scans offer an exciting insight for both researchers and visitors."
 
Arrangements for the state-of-the-art scans were made by Bob Loynes, previously an Orthopaedic Consultant at the Hospital, and a keen Egyptologist for decades. In the past, it has been necessary to unwrap mummies to carry out investigations, but this clearly destructive process can now be avoided.
 
Mr Loynes said: "The opportunity to help with the further investigation of these mummies was a very exciting one for me. The CT Scans have shown amazing details, which have produced as many questions as they have given answers. "There are many more questions & further investigations are being planned. I hope we’ll be able to come back later with more answers and a comprehensive report."
 
Scans of the second mummy, that of Padimut, priest of the goddess Mut and probably of the 21st Dynasty (1085-935 BC), showed evidence of high quality mummification – including removal of the brain and plates in front of the eyes.Investigations into the third mummy threw up more mystery. The mummy, that of Namenkhetamun of the 26th. Dynasty (664-525BC) was described as ‘the daughter of Amunkhau’ on the coffin lid. But the scan has revealed the mummy is male.

Researchers also discovered another mystery – an unexplained hole in the mummy's back which is the size of a fist. Adam Jaffer, BMAG’s Curator of World Cultures, concluded: "This scanning has produced views of the museum's mummies which have never been seen before. We have been able to 'virtually unwrap' them without causing any damage. However, scanning poses new questions about the life and death of these ancient Egyptians which we will try to find the answers for."

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