Particle Accelerator Reveals Objects Buried With An Ancient Egyptian Mummy

Scientists used a high-energy particle accelerator to take a closer look at the inside of an ancient Egyptian mummy. The study involves the mummified body of a young girl estimated to be about 5 years old when she died at the end of the first century A.D.

High-Energy Particle Accelerator Used To Unveil Mysteries Of Young Girl's Mummy

To unveil some of the mysteries of the mummy, researchers conducted an experiment using the Advanced Photon Source, the brightest source of X-ray in the Western hemisphere at the Argonne National Laboratory.

Researchers want to know how the mummified body was prepared about 1,900 years ago, the qualities of her bones, the items she had been buried with, and the materials present in her brain cavity.

Objects Buried With The Girl's Mummified Body

It was the first time researchers used a high-energy particle accelerator to study a human mummy. The tool is often aimed for physics-based research, but the experiment allowed researchers to take a look inside without risking damage.

Researchers were able to examine the objects that were buried with the girl's body. Early results revealed wires in the mummy's teeth and a small mysterious objected wrapped to the stomach, which some of the researchers think, albeit with uncertainty, is a stone. Researchers also found shards potentially from an object made of tar placed in her skull after the brain was removed during the mummification process.

"This is a unique experiment, a 3-D puzzle," said Stuart Stock, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "We have confirmed that the shards in the brain cavity are likely solidified pitch, not a crystalline material."

Lifelike Portrait Embedded Into The Mummy's Wrappings

The mummy, who wears gold jewelry and crimson tunic, also has an embedded portrait, a lifelike painting of the individual incorporated into the wrappings. The mummy is only one of about 100 worldwide with such a painted portrait that was embedded in the wrapping above where its head should be.

This style is introduced by the Romans, so, the analysis of the mummy will also offer researchers clues about Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits, which have a different style from those of the more familiar Egyptian mummies. The latter usually features three-dimensional sculpture-style faces.

"She's really quite rare," said Essi Ronkko, from the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern. "You don't get to study a mummy like this often. This is invaluable because it's a fully intact mummy."

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