2,500-yr-old mummy found in 'empty' Egyptian coffin in Sydney Uni



SYDNEY, Subel Bhandari (dpa)- Scientists in Australia have discovered the remains of a mummy in an elegantly carved 2,500-year-old coffin that was previously thought to be empty.
Sydney University's Nicholson Museum had been holding on to four ancient and intricately designed Egyptian coffins - three of them with full-bodied mummies - for more than 150 years.
Last year, when researchers opened the lid of the fourth one, they were not hopeful of finding anything of great research value.



"The records previously said the coffin was empty or with debris... There is a lot more to it than previously thought," said Jamie Fraser, the lead investigator and senior curator at the museum.
Only about 10 per cent of the body remains from the "badly torn apart" mummy were left in the coffin.
The coffin belonged to Mer-Neith-it-es, according to hieroglyphs on the lid name. She was a noblewoman who served the Mistress of the Temple of Sekhmet. The sarcophagus dates back to the 26th Dynasty, circa 664-525 BC.
The coffin was acquired in the 1860s in Egypt by Charles Nicholson, a former chancellor of Sydney University. It had been since been housed at the university's museum bearing his name.
It was overshadowed by three other coffins with full mummies, Fraser told dpa.
Fraser said that after the initial study, it is likely the remains are of a single human, an adult probably around the age of 30, but not certain whether male or female.
The coffin and its contents had already been laser-scanned for 3D modelling purposes, and were then sent for detailed CT (computed tomography) scans, which were finished last week.
The examination has so far been able to locate several bones, bandages, resin fragments, and more than 7,000 glass beads from a funeral shawl, but months of further analysis lie ahead.
"We did not have this technology 10 years ago. We now have it and we can do it with such precision," Fraser said.
"The mummy remains have been heavily disturbed. It was likely robbed for jewels and amulets. It has been shipped around the world. The bones are heavily broken and mixed with debris," Fraser said.
"It is in such bad condition that we can actually use it for research purposes. This is a great find for forensic anthropologists. We can find out who this person is, about the diet and diseases. We can find out how or why they died. We don't often get this," Fraser said.
He said he is aware of only one other instance of this happening in recent times, in Switzerland.
"Archaeology is active destruction and active preservation. To find out more, we have to disturb sometimes, but with all due respect for the human remains."
"In fact, by this process of excavation, we can stabilise the remains and conserve them properly," he said.
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Saturday, March 31st 2018
Subel Bhandari (dpa)
           


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