Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases


Share post:

Researchers in London have developed scanning techniques that show what is written on the papyrus that mummy cases are made from.

Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases
Light of different frequencies can bring out writing that is obscured by the paste and plaster
 that holds mummy cases together [Credit: BBC News]

These are the decorated boxes into which the wrapped body of the deceased was placed before it was put in a tomb.

They are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The technology is giving historians a new insight into everyday life in ancient Egypt.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases
The mysterious mummy of Chiddingstone castle [Credit: BBC News]

“Because the waste papyrus was used to make prestige objects, they have been preserved for 2,000 years,” he said.

“And so these masks constitute one of the best libraries we have of waste papyrus that would otherwise have been thrown away so it includes information about these individual people about their everyday lives”

The scraps of papyrus are more than 2,000 years old. The writing on them is often obscured by the paste and plaster that holds the mummy cases together. But researchers can see what is underneath by scanning them with different kinds of light which makes the inks glow.

One of the first successes of the new technique was on a mummy case kept at a museum at Chiddingstone castle in Kent. The researchers discovered writing on the footplate that was not visible to the naked eye.

The scan revealed a name – “Irethorru” – a common name in Egypt, the David or Stephen of its time, which meant: “the eye of Horus is against my enemies”.

Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases
Writing on the footplate reveals the mummy’s name: Irethorru – translated it means “the Eye of Horus
 is against my enemies” [Credit: BBC News]

Until now, the only way to see what was written on them was to destroy these precious objects – leaving Egyptologists with a dilemma. Do they destroy them? Or do they leave them untouched, leaving the stories within them untold?

Now, researchers have developed a scanning technique that leaves the cases intact but allows historians to read what is on the papyrus. According to Dr Kathryn Piquette, of University College London, Egyptologists such as her now have the best of both worlds.

“I’m really horrified when we see these precious objects being destroyed to get to the text. It’s a crime. They are finite resources and we now have a technology to both preserve those beautiful objects and also look inside them to understand the way Egyptians lived through their documentary evidence – and the things they wrote down and the things that were important to them.”

Author: Pallab Ghosh | Source: BBC News Website [January 02, 2018]



Related articles

German-Danish team unearth building in Jerash destroyed by earthquake in AD 749

During an excavation work carried out by the German-Danish team in Jerash, remains of a building constructed on...

Hundreds of rock paintings discovered in Tanzania

Hundreds of rock paintings, the oldest of which can be even several thousand years old, have been discovered...

2,000-year old seal bearing portrait of Apollo found in Jerusalem

A gem was found in the The Archaeological Sifting Project in the Tzurim Valley National Park, carried out...

New evidence about when, where, and how chickens were domesticated

New research transforms our understanding of the circumstances and timing of the domestication of chickens, their spread across...

Pre-Columbian ceremonial center discovered on Mexico’s highest peak

Researchers have discovered an archaeological site on Mexico's highest peak that could be the remains of a pre-Columbian...

Archaeological features of Kathmandu Valley uncovered

A series of post-disaster surveys and rescue excavations recently conducted by a collaborative team of international and national...

Neanderthals used fire to make tools for hunting 170,000 years ago

Neanderthals in southern Tuscany used fire to manufacture wooden tools used for foraging and hunting around 171,000 years...

48 feet long ‘Sleeping Buddha” statue unearthed in Haripur district

A centuries-old 'sleeping Buddha' statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district, DawnNews reported...