The British Museum is renowned for its Egyptian collection, including its mummies. But the difficulty with mummies is you can’t unwrap them without causing damage, but that’s where technology can help — the British Museum has put eight of its mummies through a CT scanner and the findings form the core of this exhibition.
We start with a body from around 35o0BC that was naturally mummified by the hot sand that buried him. It’s remarkable that there are still remnants of flesh, skin and even hair after all this time, with the CT scan revealing undigested food in the body’s intestines.
Further CT scans reveal a pair of lungs inside a canopic jar buried alongside one of the mummies and the amulets that were included in the intricately decorated sarcophagus of the daughter of a high priest. Some of the most fascinating revelations are signs of mummification gone wrong, including steel rods connecting a head and body that had become detached during embalming and the end of a tool that snapped off while the brain was being removed through the nasal cavity.
The ancient Egyptians are also known for their gilded sarcophagi and the show doesn’t disappoint in this department either, with a wonderful yet sad example containing a two year old and some exquisite golden heads at the end of the exhibition.
There are other artefacts on display but its the mummies and their CT scans that rightfully steal the show. This exhibition may be tucked away in the corner of the museum but it’s a great example of the valuable research done by the British Museum with each mummy telling a different story, resulting in a fascinating and insightful exhibition.
Ancient Lives: New Discoveries is on at The British Museum until 30 November. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available.