Category Archives: EGYPT

Scientists explore Egyptian mummy bones with X-rays and infrared light

Scientists explore Egyptian mummy bones with X-rays and infrared light

Mummy’s bones are examined by lasers, x-rays and infrared technology which ‘ shine a light on ‘ daily life in ancient Egypt.

A collection of bone specimens from 2,000 to 4,000 years were tested using the Advanced Light Source at the California-based Berkeley Laboratories.

The bones are exposed to a range of wavelengths of clear light that can be used to investigate the composition, structure and other properties of the samples.

‘The bones are acting as an archive,’ said Mohamed Kasem from Cairo University who worked on the study.  

The researchers made ‘very thin slices’ of femur bones as part of the study, which they hope will be able to show how people lived, their diet, health and daily lives. 

A number of discoveries into the way the people of ancient Egypt lived are already being revealed thanks to the research – although a lot more time is needed to analyse the data, said Dr Kasem.

The team used a chemical-analysis technique, where a short laser pulse blasts away a small volume of material from a sample. The emitted light from the blast is then studied to determine what elements are present. 

‘We have found a lead, aluminium, and other elements that give us an indication of the environment and the toxicity of that time. That information is stored right in the bones,’ Dr Kasem said.

For example, while the ancient Egyptians didn’t use aluminium in metal-working, researchers have found that they used potassium alum, a chemical compound containing aluminium, to reduce cloudiness in drinking water. 

The team used X-rays to study how the collagen in the bones of the mummies compare to modern humans. When an X-ray is shined through the collagen the X-rays are scattered and the pattern of scattering they make can show researchers how healthy and well preserved the collagen is.

The collagen assemblies generally aren’t as well ordered in the ancient samples as in healthy modern bones, said Eric Schaible, a Berkley scientist.

The samples were brought over from Egypt by scientists from Cairo University and represent four different dynasties in Egypt: the Middle Kingdom, Second Intermediate Period, Late Period and Greco-Roman period. They have also examined soils taken from burial sites of the human remains.

‘So many factors affect preservation. One of them is how long the bone has been buried in soil and also the state of the bone and the different types of soil,’ said Dr Kasem.

Differences in embalming techniques could also affect the preservation of the bone and the chemistry they find in the X-ray studies.  ‘There are different qualities in the materials, like the cloth and the resins they used to embalm,’ he said. 

The soil samples will help distinguish whether chemical concentrations in the bone samples were related to the individuals’ health, diet, and daily lives, or whether the chemicals in the soil had changed the bones’ chemistry over time. 

The samples were recovered from two Egyptian sites – Saqqara, the site of an ancient burial ground and Aswan, the site of an ancient city on the bank of the Nile once known as Swenett.

It’s hoped the research into the way the soil interacts with the bones could help in future projects to preserve mummified remains.  

‘It’s very exciting to be involved in this project, and to learn about the journey these mummies have been on, in life and after death,’ Dr Schaible said.

Did ancient Egyptians trade nicotine and cocaine with the New World?

Did ancient Egyptians trade nicotine and cocaine with the New World?

Imagine the perfectly mummified Egyptian princess and priestess, Henut Taui, “The Lady of the Two Lands.” She was beautiful, powerful and gently alluring.

Imagine you’re thrust back in time and immediately invited to her palace to enjoy the most luxuriating experiences of the day.

As you sit near her throne, you’re showered with new delights and substances, the likes of which you never imagined you might find in Ancient Egypt, like cocaine and tobacco…

While this fantasy defies the narrative of mainstream Egyptology, there’s evidence it actually could have happened.

That’s because Henut Taui and the controversial “cocaine mummies” revealed a vast global trade network that linked the new world with Ancient Egypt.

During a study of the mummy of an ancient elite Egyptian – nicotine, and cocaine – Dr. Svetla Balabanowa found it shocking.

Soon the question came up: What did Lady Henut Taui have access to elements from the tobacco and coca plants about 3,000 years ago?

The interesting thing is that these plants only grew in the Americas at the time – not until the 19th century, they were shipped across the Atlantic.

The confusion led researchers to wonder if the mummy was fake or the tests were contaminated. However, a thorough analysis of the results shows that they were authentic. Does this mean the ancient Egyptians had reached the Americas?

An examination in the 1970s of the mummy of Ramesses II revealed fragments of tobacco leaves in its abdomen.

Archaeological findings show that Egyptians were adept at navigating the seas. For example, Queen Hatshepsut is known to have funded an expedition to the mysterious Land of Punt around 1477 BC.

A relief depicting the journey has been found at Deir el-Bahri (in modern-day Luxor). That mural shows large ships packed with men, gold, trees, and exotic animals.

The flora and fauna shown in the artwork are thought to have existed along the coasts of African and the Arabian Peninsula. These findings show that the ancient Egyptians could complete some longer oceanic voyages.

Members of Hatshepsut’s trading expedition to the mysterious ‘Land of Punt’ from this pharaoh’s elegant mortuary temple at Deir El-Bahri.

A 2011 discovery made on the Red Sea coast, furthered the belief in the seafaring capacity of the ancient Egyptians.

An archaeologist working in a dried-up lagoon came across the ruins of an ancient harbor. Timber, rigging, reed mats, steering oars, cedar planks, and limestone anchors were all unearthed.

Original knots which were joining the main pieces of the Khufu Boat. The cedar timbers of the boat’s curved hull were lashed together with hemp rope in a technique used until recent times by traditional shipbuilders on the shores of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean

Possible evidence of an unproven Egyptian voyage to the Americas has been found in the Marble Region of the Grand Canyon.

The Arizona Gazette reported on April 5, 1909, that two explorers funded by the Smithsonian found various Egyptian artifacts, including tablets with hieroglyphics, inside caves.

The problem is the Smithsonian has no known records of the discovery.

That find would provide strong evidence to support the belief ancient Egyptians reached the Americas – though it may also be considered inconvenient by some groups to go against the story of the ‘discovery’ of the Americas, as it could drastically alter perceptions of events and the celebration of traditions such as Columbus Day.

Egyptian tomb painting from 1450 BC. Caption: “Officer with sounding pole…is telling crew to come ahead slow. Engineers with cat-o’-nine-tails assuring proper response from engines.”

Egypt says it’s unearthed large animal mummy, likely a lion

Egypt says it’s unearthed large animal mummy, likely a lion

Egypt, Cairo: The Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt reports that locals have uncovered the remains of an exceptionally large animal possibly the lion or lioness.

On Monday, the Minister informed, the mummy that it had been excavated in Saqqara, a town south of Cairo that was a vast necropolis in antiquity and is home to the famed Step Pyramid.

Mummified cats are often found by archeology, but a lion recovery is rare.

A first lion skeleton was found in 2004 which revealed the animal’s sacred status in ancient times.

The ministry says it will expand on the discovery at a press conference after running radar scans.

Egypt has stepped up promotion of its archeological treasures in hopes of reviving a tourism sector slow to recover from the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Mystery over contents of 9 foot tall ancient Egyptian sarcophagus discovered in Alexandria

Mystery over contents of 9  foot tall ancient Egyptian sarcophagus discovered in Alexandria

Mystery over contents of 9-foot-tall ancient Egyptian sarcophagus discovered in Alexandria

The spooky relic was found inside an ancient tomb and has left archaeologists baffled – because it measures NINE foot long.

Experts say the sarcophagus is built from black granite and is the largest ever found in the ancient city of Alexandria.

The tomb dates back to the Ptolemaic period, which covers the time between 305BC and 30BC. The sarcophagus itself looks particularly foreboding, measuring nine feet long, five feet wide, and six feet tall.

Scientists who helped excavate the site still aren’t sure why it’s so big, because Ancient Egyptians were typically much smaller than modern men – and nowhere near nine feet.

The average height of an Ancient Egyptian man was just over five feet, while women were typically just shy of five feet. Archaeologists say the sarcophagus is covered in a thick layer of mortar.

That’s important because it suggests the creepy coffin has never been opened since the time it was buried.

This means the person (or people) originally buried inside it may still be in there – along with any accompanying possessions. But that’s not all that’s got scientists interested.

The sarcophagus was uncovered five metres beneath the surface of the land
The sarcophagus was uncovered five meters beneath the surface of the land

The tomb also contained an alabaster head of an unknown man, who may be the person inside the sarcophagus. Scientists will now have to make the important decision of whether to open the sarcophagus or not to find out.

It’s possible they may get around the issue by using X-Rays or CT scans to examine the innards without breaching the case physically. But the only true way to reveal all of the secrets in this sarcophagus is to bust it open.

King Tutankhamun is an immediately recognizable symbol of Ancient Egypt – and popularised belief in a “curse of the pharaohs”

Opening ancient tombs can be risky business, or so history tells us. It’s a popular belief that a “curse of the pharaohs” is cast on anyone who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person.

This alleged curse is said to affect anyone: not only thieves but scientists and archaeologists too.

A fresco on the wall of his tomb shows Tutankhamun with the god Osiris
A fresco on the wall of his tomb shows Tutankhamun with the god Osiris
The discovery of Tutankhamun’s beautifully-preserved tomb made headlines around the world

It was popularised by the 1922 opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun, which seemingly led to a string of deaths of people associated with the discovery.

The most notable passing was of Lord Carnarvon, the British financial backer of the excavation team who was present at the tomb’s opening. He died four months after the tomb was opened due to an infected mosquito bite.

Another Brit called Howard Carter, who helped open the tomb, also died – albeit more than a decade later. Still, some attribute his death to the pharaoh’s curse.

Historians say there were 11 related deaths within the first 10 years of Tutankhamun’s tomb opening.

Of course, what’s most likely is that the prevalence of the disease in early 20th Century Egypt – and generally worse medical care compared to modern standards – explains why we saw a seemingly high number of deaths.

But the mythical curse may be enough to put some archaeologists off opening this new sarcophagus.

Archaeologists Discover Remains Of Three Different Cats Inside Ancient Egyptian Mummy

Archaeologists Discover Remains Of Three Different Cats Inside Ancient Egyptian Mummy

An elderly cat mom’s scan showed that the 2500-year-old feline, ostensibly inside the covers, wasn’t a single animal. Instead, according to recent results, the mummy contained partial remains of three cats.

Cat mummies in ancient Egypt are not common, although thousands of cat mummies have been identified in burials by the archeologists. In ancient Egypt pets with their families are usually buried.

According to an earlier BBC Report, the desire to preserve animals as a gift to the Gods led to the establishment of an entire industry and the mummification of over 70 million animals.

The 2,500-year-old Egyptian cat mummy, who belongs to a collection at the Fine Arts Museum in Rennes, France was recently examined by a group of researchers.

The scientists performed a computerized tomography (CT) scan, a type of X-ray, to illuminate what was inside the mummy without unwrapping it, and then they created 3D digital and transparent 3D-printed reconstructions of the mummy.

The scans revealed that this ancient mummy was filled with some surprises. Instead of the cat’s head, the mummy held a ball of fabric.

It was also missing a skull, vertebrae, and ribs, and instead held five hind leg bones from three different cats, according to a statement from the National Institute of Preventive Archeological Research (Inrap) in France.

The bones were decomposed and riddled with holes created by corpse-eating insects, said Théophane Nicolas, a researcher at Inrap who was part of the project.

Researchers used a CT scan to examine the insides of the cat mummy without damaging it.

“Cat mummies have been found in very large quantities sometimes in extremely degraded states and reduced to the state of accumulation of bones,” Nicolas told BBC.

But sometimes what you see on the outside is not what you get on the inside, he said. While some animal mummies are complete, others are empty or have only fragments of animal bones.

What’s more, because the larger mummies preserved as offerings for the gods sold for more money, many of the mummies were made to appear bigger than the animals themselves, and some didn’t contain animal remains at all. Instead, they were filled with organic material such as leather and gravel, according to the previous BBC report. 

It’s unclear why the Rennes cat mummy held the partial remains of three different cats, but some researchers believe that it was part of an “ancient scam organized by unscrupulous priests,” Nicolas said in the statement.

Priests could have “resorted to less elaborate preparations, impossible to detect by sight” for rituals which “gradually lead to mummies whose cat shape represents a visible reality beyond the real content,” he told BBC. 

But Nicolas and his team don’t think that’s necessarily true. “We believe on the contrary that there are innumerable ways to make animal mummies,” he said in the statement.

The group of scientists projected the internal 3D reconstruction onto the 3D-printed model of the mummy.

This glowing object was presented last month in Sweden at the European Heritage Days 2019 event and will be on display for people to view at the Museum of Fine Arts in France.

CT scans allow researchers to examine different layers of mummified animals, like this cat mummy.