All the fun of opening up a mummy, without the fear of unleashing a plague.
- Three long dead Egyptians recently had their CT images taken.
- The scans revealed what was, and was not, done during their mummification.
- The finds shed more light on how the Egyptians were inspired by the Greeks and Romans.
They look pretty good for being 2000.<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc3OTczOS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MzQyMTA3OH0.DXEfaEIlP4i9cbSesikZJQENNsAXsz5w44da-qR_CPc/img.png?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C55%2C0%2C55&height=700" id="008a0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e52682068e52705d2252c8ca1be19c18" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
The decorated images showing who the mummies used to be.
Credit: Zesch et al., PLOS One, 2020<p> The three mummies scanned are the only known examples of "stucco-shrouded portrait mummies." As opposed to being buried in a coffin, these three were placed on wooden boards then wrapped in a textile and a shroud. They were then decorated with plaster, gold, and a whole-body portrait revealing what they looked like, how they styled their hair, and what they wore in life. All three were once buried in Saqqara, the great Necropolis just south of <a href="https://www.livescience.com/painted-ancient-egyptian-mummies-ct-scan.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Giza</a>. <br> <br> They date back to the Late Roman Period in Egypt, and all three of them have had very exciting afterlives filled with stories about their discoveries and shifting ownership. Now, thanks to modern technology, we can learn about their lives. <br> <br> The CT scan shows that the man was between 25 and 30 years of age when he died and that he had several cavities and unerupted teeth. He was only 164 cm tall (around 5'4"). Several of his bones are broken, though this is believed to be the result of careless handling by whoever discovered the remains.</p><p>Most curiously, there is no evidence that his brain was removed during the mummification process, as was standard in other cases. It also seems that few embalming chemicals were used to preserve him. This suggests that he was just wrapped, painted, and buried and that dehydration is what kept his corpse so well preserved. <br> <br> The woman was between 30 and 40 years old and stood at 151 cm (4'9"). She shows signs of arthritis in her knees. Like many other Egyptians, she was buried in fine jewelry. Several necklaces appeared on the scan, suggesting she was well off. For reasons unknown, nails were also found in her abdomen. Like her male counterpart, her brain was not removed during mummification, <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/archaeologists-finally-peer-inside-egyptian-mummies-first-found-in-1615" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">either</a>. <br> <br> The last mummy was that of a girl in her late teens. She showed signs of having a benign tumor on her back, and all of her internal organs were still intact. Her coffin contains hairpins, suggesting that she wore her hair up as depicted in her portrait. </p>
How does this change our understanding of Egyptian life and death?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bHV0My7KibM" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Finding hairpins with the remains is noteworthy, as only a few other such examples exist. It provides further evidence that ancient Egyptians wore their hair up. </p><p>Other mummies have been buried with coins, but in Egypt, the practice does not seem to go back to before Alexander the Great conquered the <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0240900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">area</a>. This suggests that the deceased had adopted elements of the Greeks' religion and brought along coins to pay Charon. </p><p>The find also sheds more light on how the Egyptians lived and died under Greek and later Roman rule and how their conquerors' beliefs and art styles influenced their religion. <br> <br> </p>
Well preserved coffins hint towards more discoveries in a famed necropolis.
- Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered more than two dozen sarcophagi in the last month.
- Experts predict more discoveries in the coming weeks.
- Their discovery is another credit to Saqqara, the necropolis of the old capital of Memphis.
More mummies than a horror movie<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMTA4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjQ3Nzc5OX0.Vf-N6VDF0tVTarGsPg46iPDARKKIqYqd32b7Zltvxn0/img.jpg?width=980" id="4aad6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6000d3bd2b06357cc5155b1372689044" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="coffin close-up" data-width="960" data-height="540" />
A few traditions in the Roman Catholic Church can be traced back to pagan cults, rites, and deities.
- The Catholic rite of Holy Communion parallels pre-Christian Greco-Roman and Egyptian rituals that involved eating the body and blood of a god.
- A number of Catholic holidays and myths, such as Christmas, Easter, and Mardi Gras, graph onto the timeline of pre-Christian fertility festivals.
- The Catholic practice of praying to saints has been called "de-facto idolatry" and even a relic of goddess worship.
Transubstantiation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjc4MDMzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTg5MTM2NH0.rpSOYmtmT3s5HJTxX2MHmg9uiq5v_cQsvM4e4JSE6bc/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C445%2C0%2C445&height=700" id="10194" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b4dba99f0925a7867132356f63cfed37" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Photo by Debby Hudson / Unsplash<p>One of the more fascinating elements of Catholicism is the ritual cannibalistic consumption of their "demigod" known as Holy Communion or Eucharist. During Catholic mass, <a href="https://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201706/where-do-hosts-come-31037" target="_blank">bread</a> and wine are transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, who is considered the son of God, in a rite called "transubstantiation." This isn't a symbolic transformation. <a href="http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm" target="_blank">A core teaching</a> of the Catholic faith is the belief in literal transubstantiation. Practitioners eat the body and blood of Christ to become one with God.</p><p>Similar rituals were practiced in the underground "mystery religions" of the Greco-Roman world. In a few of those occult religions, celebrants shared a communal meal in which they symbolically feasted on the flesh and got drunk on the blood of their god. For example, <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Mithraic_Mysteries/" target="_blank">the Mithraic Mysteries</a>, or Mithraism, was a mystery cult practiced in the Roman Empire in 300 BC in which followers worshipped the Indo-Iranian deity Mithram, the god of friendship, contract, and order. Mirroring the Catholic Eucharistic rite, the idea of transubstantiation was a characteristic of Mithraic sacraments that included cake and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haoma" target="_blank">Haoma drink</a>. But the ritual probably wasn't original to Mithraism either. In Egypt around 3100 BC, priests would consecrate cakes which were to become the flesh of the god Osiris and eaten.</p>
Holy Days and Carnivals<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjc4MDM0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjIwNDU1N30.wU_6PRocoZKY63msF-07RuVgfAbQmNpJqk9AunwpMs4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C202%2C0%2C202&height=700" id="d13d6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e82e5ad02156aa156fd726274050fb66" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Goddess Worship: The Virgin Mary and Saint Brigid<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjc4MDMzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDAwMzY2OX0.XxCP-VNBsWx9O7sir9wIMJcUVsiFkvaRfa_GgyuIFJA/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C572%2C0%2C572&height=700" id="fccf3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a5969e079ce629e1171f8650ea3346a8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Photo by Grant Whitty / Unsplash<p>Though theoretically monotheistic, the Catholic practice of praying to saints has been called "de-facto idolatry" and even a relic of goddess worship. Rebranded pagan goddesses can be found in the Catholic Church today in forms of Saint Brigid and the Virgin Mary. </p><p>Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ, is arguably the most important Catholic icon save for the Holy Trinity. She's likely the amalgamation of pre-Christian mother goddesses from antiquity whose ranks include Artemis, Demeter, Diana, Hera, Isis, and Venus. The cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis may have had a particularly strong influence on Christian myth. While historical records can not substantiate this entirely, there is <a href="http://www.columbia.edu/~sf2220/Thing/web-content/Pages/meg2.html" target="_blank">physical evidence</a> of statues of Isis cradling Horus that were converted and reused as the Virgin Mary holding Jesus. </p><p>Brigid, the beloved Celtic goddess associated with fertility and healing, is perhaps the clearest example of the survival of an early goddess into Catholicism. Practitioners, <a href="https://twitter.com/PresidentIRL/status/1223182697142607872" target="_blank">particularly in Ireland</a>, pay tribute to <a href="https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=453" target="_blank">Saint Brigid of Ireland</a> who shares many of the early goddess's attributes. Her feast day on the first of February falls around the same time as the pagan celebration of Imbolc.</p><p>The appropriation of these pagan practices and symbols by the Catholic Church shows how, as social interests change and new institutions are established, religious myths and practices are not so easily exterminated. Today, millions of Catholics eating the body and blood of their god, bowing their heads to feminine idols and celebrating natural cycles on the Liturgical Calendar are still worshiping in the ways of the ancient pagans.</p>
Researchers confirmed that the mummy known as Takabuti died from a stab wound to the back.
- The mummy Takabuti has inspired a great deal of speculation since it was first unwrapped in 1835.
- Takabuti died when she was between 20 and 30, leading researchers to wonder about her cause of death.
- New techniques have enabled researchers to determine that Takabuti died from a stab wound to the back, among other interesting findings.
Insight into a 2,600-year-old woman<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNzEzNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTg5NjE3OX0.OJgMph7Sd2jcljUP3SntpWF3STJkL_PBDU9sw5EAWbI/img.jpg?width=980" id="2acec" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="043339a88db5d3b70e3acfe05637283c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Takabuti" />
Ulster Museum<p>The new findings have challenged the popular characterization of Takabuti as resting peacefully — now, it's clear that her last moments alive were anything but peaceful.</p><p>"Trawling the historical records about her early days in Belfast it is clear that she caused quite a media sensation in 1835," said bioarcheologist Eileen Murphy in a statement. "She had a poem written about her, a painting was made of her prior to her 'unrolling' and accounts of her unwrapping were carried in newspapers across Ireland." </p><p>Takabuti also appeared to be something of an independent spirit, at least when it came to following fashion trends contemporary to her life. "Research undertaken ten years ago gave us some fascinating insights," continued Murphy, "such as how her auburn hair was deliberately curled and styled. This must have been a very important part of her identity as she spurned the typical shaven-headed style. Looking at all of these facts, we start to get a sense of the petite young woman and not just the mummy." What remains beyond our understanding, however, is why somebody had been driven to murder the young Egyptian mistress.</p>
Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.
- Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
- With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
- The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Howard et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"While this approach has wide implications for heritage management/museum display, its relevance conforms exactly to the ancient Egyptians' fundamental belief that 'to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again'," they wrote in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56316-y#Fig3" target="_blank">paper</a> published in Nature Scientific Reports. "Given Nesyamun's stated desire to have his voice heard in the afterlife in order to live forever, the fulfilment of his beliefs through the synthesis of his vocal function allows us to make direct contact with ancient Egypt by listening to a sound from a vocal tract that has not been heard for over 3000 years, preserved through mummification and now restored through this new technique."</p>