University of Manchester

The investigation of wrapped ancient Egyptian animal mummy bundle contents using Micro-CT

Lidija Mary McKnight
Project Completed

Scientific Case

The applicant is currently employed on a Leverhulme Research Project Award investigating the role of non-invasive imaging techniques in the study of ancient Egyptian mummfiied animal material. Research to date has studied over 780 animal mummies from 54 museum collections highlighting the wide variety of material of this type. The use of imaging to date has focused on the application of clinical methods available through the Central Manchester Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in particular digital radiography and CT scanning. The importance of radiography as a non-invasive study method on this material is paramount and provides museums with an insight into their material without the need to destroy the artefact. Imaging to date has been used to identify the nature of the contents of wrapped bundles - species, minimum number of individuals, post-mortem alterations to the cadaver, mummification treatments (evisceration/excerebration), wrapping methods and decorative accoutrements.

The research has identified three small mummified bundles from the Manchester Museum collection which, when radiographed, highlighted unusual contents which may benefit from micro-CT analysis. Firstly, the wrapped mummified remains of a shrew with a food packet on its back thought to contain grain for the afterlife. Secondly, a small ovoid bundle which appeared not to contain any skeletal material (pseudo-mummy); however, there was an unidentified anomaly within the wrappings which merits further investigation. Lastly, a small, cylindrical wrapped bundle recorded as being a canine animal, which revealed small, undientifiable skeletal fragments with little continuity.

I would like to apply to MXIF to micro-CT these three mummified bundles, with the hope of being able to better understand their contents. The data would be used as a basis for reformated images and 3D-printed models of the mummies created through collaboration with Loughborough Design School. These would then be used for the exhibition based on the research which will open at the Manchester Museum in September 2015 before touring to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow, and the World Museum, Liverpool.


Experiment Design

Anomalies within wrapped mummified bundles purported to be animal mummies.

Smallest anomaly likely to be the size of a grain of wheat.
Scanners and Rigs
Nikon Custom 320kV Bay
Not Required

Sample & Safety

Low Hazard

Scan Records

Project Report