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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Unravelling the bandages of the 'royal' Hatason mummy: Scans of mysterious 3,200-year-old Egyptian remains confirm she is a woman but was NOT a queen | Daily Mail Online


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3344418/Unravelling-bandages-royal-Hatason-mummy-Scans-mysterious-3-200-year-old-Egyptian-remains-confirm-woman-NOT-queen.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

Unravelling the bandages of the 'royal' Hatason mummy: Scans of mysterious 3,200-year-old Egyptian remains confirm she is a woman but was NOT a queen

  • Researchers used CT scans to study a mysterious mummy called Hatason
  • Scientists doubt that is its real name and were unsure of the mummy's sex
  • Scans revealed most of the body has rotted away leaving a jumble of bones
  • But the skull size suggests it was female and her brain was not removed

For 3,200 years, her identity has remained shrouded beneath a wrapping of cloth, but now scientists have taken their first glimpse at the remains of a mysterious ancient Egyptian mummy.

Egyptologists have used the latest computed tomography, or CT scans, to see through the thick covering of material around her body.

It has allowed them, for the first time, to confirm the mummy known as Hatason is indeed a woman and may date to the New Kingdom, but was not a member of royalty as once thought.

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Scientists have used a CT scanner to peer beneath the bandages of an ancient Egyptian mummy for the first time in the hope of finding clues about its identity. They found most of the body has rotted away, leaving a jumble of bones (pictured) but say it is a woman whose brain was left inside her skull when she was mummified

Although the mummy was given to de Young museum in San Francisco in a coffin depicting a woman in ordinary clothes, there have been doubts about whether it belonged in that coffin.

Even the name Hatason is thought to have been an invention by salesmen who purchased the coffin and the mummy.

THE MYSTERY OF HATASON

Although the mummy was given to de Young museum in a coffin depicting a woman in ordinary clothes, there have been doubts about whether it belonged in that coffin.

Even the name Hatason is thought to have been an invention by salesmen who purchased the coffin and the mummy. 

It is thought the name was invented in an attempt to make the mummy sound like a queen, such as Hatshepsut, for the benefit of private collectors in the 1890s. 

The scans have revealed the mummy does appear to be the remains of a woman who underwent an unusual type of mummification.

Sediment inside the skull suggests her brain was left inside when it was mummified - something that occurred during the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt between the 16th and 11th centuries BC.

The researchers found no sign of jewellery or amulets, which would indicate she had been a wealthy individual, but the bones could reveal more about her lifestyle. 

But the scans, conducted at Stanford University's school of medicine, have finally revealed the mummy does appear to be the remains of a woman who underwent a particularly unusual type of mummification.

Sediment inside the skull suggests her brain was left inside when it was mummified - something that occurred during the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt between the 16th and 11th centuries BC.

The scans also revealed that while the wrappings used around the body still hold the outline of her shape, her body has decomposed, leaving just the bones 'in a jumble' inside.

Dr Jonathan Elias, director of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium who analysed the scans, said the shape of the skull, however, appeared to be that of a woman.

He said: 'This mummy is known historically as Hatason. That is not her name. That is a corruption, we believe, of the name of a famous queen, Hatshepsut.

'This mummy has never been researched in any way before except on the outside. 

'This is the first time we are getting a look inside the mummy bundle.'

It is thought the name was invented in an attempt to make the mummy sound like a queen for the benefit of private collectors in the 1890s. 

The scans revealed the brain is still inside the skull sitting on a pile of dark material thought to be sediment injected into the braincase during the mummification process. This has helped scientists pin down a more accurate date for when the woman died as in later mummies the brain was always removed

HOW TO CREATE A MUMMY 

Greek researchers have attempted to copy ancient Egyptian mummifcation techniques.

They placed a donated human limb into a pine box on a layer of natron salt.

Natron was originally mined in ancient Egypt at Wadi Natrum and was an essential component of the mummification process.

For their study, the scientists created 154lbs (70kg) artificial natron by combining sodium carbonate, bicarbonate, sodium choloride and sodium sulfate.

They created a natron layer 4-inch (10cm) thick in the pine box and placed the leg on top before covering it with the rest of the natron.

This was then kept in a fume hood for 208 days, by which time it had mostly mummified.

In ancient Egypt, however, the dry air and heat would also have sped the process up by helping dehydrate the tissues. 

The mummy was found in a tomb in the 19th century near the Egyptian city of Asyut on the west bank of the Nile River before in 1895 it was donated to the de Young Museum.

Dr Anne Austin, an Egyptologist at Stanford University, said: 'When mummies came into the collections of most museums in the late 19th century and early 20th century, they were dated and sexed based on the coffin the mummy was found in.

'We now know that rampant reuse of coffins means these assumptions may be wrong.'

The scans, however, have now helped to go some way towards confirming the mummy inside the coffin obtained by the de Young Museum may belong there.

The researchers found no sign of jewellery or amulets, which would indicate she had been a wealthy individual, but the bones could reveal more about her lifestyle.

Dr Elias said it appears the presence of the brain in the mummy appears to suggest it dates to around the New Kingdom.

The mummy of Hatason has never been studied in detail beyond the outer wrappings, but the CT scanner at Stanford University has allowed scientists to see inside for the first time

While the soft tissue and organs have rotted away, the bones remain inside the wrapping, which have kept to the shape of the ancient Egyptian woman's body. Many of the bones have moved and become jumbled

The remains of the brain were also visible still inside the skull on top of a pile of dark material.

'It's some form of material added into the brain case while the brain was left inside. We have not seen that particular pattern before,' he said.

'In mummies manufactured after a certain time, there is excerebration (removal of the brain) almost 100 per cent of the time. But we have no excerebration,'

The CT scanner (pictured) at Stanford University's School of Medicine also revealed there were no signs of amulets or jewellery inside the wrapping with the body, providing clues about the woman's status

Scientists hope to study the scans of the woman's body (pictured) in an attempt to learn more about her and the lifestyle she led. The mummy has never been unwrapped