Dec 8, 2016 | By Julia

Six Egyptian mummies have been virtually unwrapped using cutting-edge 3D scanning and 3D modelling software at a joint British-Australian exhibition. Never examined in such close detail before, the ancient mummies date back as early as 900 BCE, with several buried between 140-180 AD.

3D imaging software allows experts to visualize the mummified remains, which have been housed at the British Museum but never physically unwrapped, with never-before-seen precision. The result is newfound insight into what life was like as an ancient Egyptian 3,000 years ago.

A visitor inspects a 3D image from a CT scan of an Egyptian mummy

“We are revealing details of all their physical remains as well as the embalming material used by the embalmers like never before,” the British Museum’s physical anthropology curator Daniel Antoine told press this Thursday at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. “What we are showing to the public is brand new discoveries of their insides.”

A state-of-the-art dual-energy computed tomography (CT) scanner at London’s Royal Brampton Hospital was used on the ancient mummies, ushering in a new era of historical data visualization, and bringing the past into the present day.

In the process, thousands of image slices were procured by museum technicians, which then formed the basis for creating 3D models. The volumetric software enables visitors to unearth layer upon layer of previously unrecorded history through interactive 3D visualizations of the CT scans.

a 3D image of the mummy next to its sarcophagus

Through all the technology, researchers emerge with a more humanized perspective on the remains. Insight can be gleaned on previously murky topics like health and disease in ancient Egypt.

"I've been able to image the arteries of the mummies, the ones that have been left, and I'm able to look at whether they are suffering from diseases which many people are suffering from today, (such as) cardiovascular diseases," Antoine said.

The CT scans revealed that one of the mummies, a priest’s daughter from approximately 900 BCE named Tamut, had plaque in her arteries. A 3D printer was also used to recreate amulets discovered during the scanning process, effectively allowing visitors a real-life view of the ornaments contained within Tamut’s sarcophagus.

Another mummy was found to have extensive bone loss, most likely due to dental abscess.

co-curator Marie Vandenbeusch with a 3D image of a mummy

Antoine believes this only the beginning of what museum researchers can achieve with the fast-developing 3D imaging tech. He predicts that in about a decade, we will be able to rescan the mummies with the latest technology and learn even more about their health, diseases they may have carried, and even the circumstances surrounding their death.

“We hope in the future to image the soft tissues at the cellular level to look at whether there’s any changes or to find evidence, for example, of cardiovascular diseases but also things like cancer,” Antoine said.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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