Looking inside ancient Egyptian mummies

Researchers have used state-of-the-art CT scanning technology to virtually unwrap ancient Egyptian mummies. In an attempt to better understand how people lived and died in the ancient Nile Valley 4,000 years ago, curators at the British Museum have teamed up with scientists and medical experts to digitally look inside eight mummies.

An Egyptian mummy receiving a CT scan

Researchers have used state-of-the-art CT scanning technology to virtually unwrap ancient Egyptian mummies.

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In an attempt to better understand how people lived and died in the ancient Nile Valley 4,000 years ago, curators at the British Museum have teamed up with scientists and medical experts to digitally look inside eight mummies.

They used non-invasive scanning techniques to learn about the age at death, health problems suffered during life, and the manner of mummification.

Among the mummified individuals – who lived across a period of 5,000 years between 3500BC and AD700 – is a young female temple singer, an unknown man of high status, and a child from the Roman era.

The findings are detailed in a new book, Ancient Lives, New Discoveries, published to accompany a major interactive exhibition at the British Museum.

To read a History Extra interview with curator John Taylor, and Daniel Antoine, who is responsible for the museum’s human remains collection, click here.

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To find out more about the exhibition, click here.

An Egyptian mummy receiving a CT scan
(© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
The scan shows the remains of the brain (coloured in blue) and evidence of a tool that was left in the skull as a mistake during the mummification process (in green). (© Trustees of the British Museum).
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
(© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
(© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
The scan shows a section through the cartonnage and wrappings. (© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
The scan shows her body within the cartonnage. (© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
This scan shows the wrappings. (© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
The scan shows considerable evidence of dental abbcesses and the loss of several teeth. (© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
(© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
The scan shows her skeleton and amulets. (© Trustees of the British Museum)
A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy
The scan shows the metal covers on her toenails and the large amulet of the winged scarab beetle Khepri. (© Trustees of the British Museum)