Stunning secrets revealed after scientists conduct scan on mummy on display in Maidstone Museum
13:59 17 November 2016
And what thought was the remains of a hawk is revealed as that of a baby
Scientists and historians say initial scans of an Egyptian mummy on display at Maidstone Museum have revealed a "myriad of fascinating findings".
Among them were secrets of ancient Egyptians revealed for the first time - and the realisation that what the museum thought was a mummified hawk, was in fact the remains of a baby.
The mummy, known as Ta-Kush, is believed to be that of a 14-year-old girl who died about 2,700 years ago.
The scans, which have taken place at the Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery in Maidstone, were given the go-ahead after obtaining a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
"The initial results of Ta-Kush's scan were remarkable," said Samantha Harris, collections manager at Maidstone Museum. "Not only did we find evidence of fully erupted wisdom teeth to help us identify that her age was probably much higher than was first thought, but also that there was evidence of a wedge fracture in one of her vertebrae – a symptom of patients suffering a downward impact such as a fall.
"These findings – as well as others we expect to learn once the full scans are analysed during work at Liverpool John Moores University – have helped us learn so much about Ta-Kush already, and we can't wait to find out more in the coming months.
"Among the other items we analysed was a piece that had initially been classified as 'A mummified hawk with linen and cartonnage, Ptolemaic period (323 BC – 30BC)',
"Following the scans at KIMS Hospital, the remains were in fact revealed to be the mummy of a baby. Initial reviews identified the baby to be a miscarried around the 20-week gestation foetus which, if found to be the case, will be one of the youngest human mummies recorded anywhere in the world.
"Thanks to the CT scanning, we are able to learn much more about the collections in a non-invasive way, without damaging the integrity or condition of the artefacts. For example, without access to the technology, identifying and learning about the baby mummy would've been impossible without causing irreversible damage from unwrapping."
The discovery of the body means that Maidstone Museum no longer has the only human mummy in Kent, but the only two human mummies in the region. Additional research and conservation will be undertaken in order to respect and care for the baby as a person, maintaining the highest standards of ethical responsibility for the preservation of human remains.
Also scanned was an ancient Egyptian ram's horn plugged with mummy linen. Following the CT scan, the horn was found to be filled with contemporary items from the Victorian, or later, era, including a chain/necklace, and buttons. The reason for this remains a mystery, and further research will be undertaken as to why this might have been used as a form of container.
On-going investigations into the life and conservation of Ta-Kush is set to be conducted over the course of the next few months with Liverpool John Moores University analysing the scans and creating a facial reconstruction.
Thanks to the lottery funding, and with support from the Maidstone Museums' Foundation, the Egyptology Department at the British Museum, the Petrie Museum at University College London, Western Ontario University and the Egypt Exploration Society, this research will uncover the stories behind the scanned human and animal remains ready for the redisplay of the wider Ancient Egyptian and Greek World collections, to be unveiled in summer 2017.
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