Mummy x-rays reveal surprising discovery

RECENT X-rays of an Egyptian mummy from the first century AD have revealed a surprising discovery.

The outside was decorated with a portrait of an adult woman, however, the x-rays have revealed that inside there is the body of a girl who was only five years old when she died.

The findings, published in the Journal of the Royal Society, have allowed researchers to learn a little more about the girl and how she was buried.

The scientists carried out new CAT scans to see the structure of the mummy in its entirety, since the old scans of this mummy were from two decades ago and it was impossible to see many details.

The mummy, officially known as Hawara Portrait Mummy No. 4, is part of the collection from the Block Museum, on the campus of Northwestern University (Illinois, USA).

It is named after Hawara, the place in Egypt where this mummy was found during an excavation between 1910 and 1911.

Stuart Stock, a research professor of cell biology at Northwestern University in Chicago and lead author of the study, said that during the Roman era in Egypt it was common to paint portraits on the front surface of mummies.

Despite the drawing showing an adult female, the size of the mummy suggested otherwise, and scientists confirmed that the mummy was actually a girl, so small that her permanent teeth hadn’t even grown.

Researchers were also puzzled by another discovery: a small, elliptical object about seven millimetres long, located in the mummy’s wraps on the abdomen. Stock explained it was an object made of calcite and it is believed that it could be an added amulet because the girl’s body was damaged during mummification.

He said that priests used to place amulets on the damaged body part to protect that person in the afterlife.


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Written by

Jennifer Leighfield

Jennifer Leighfield, born in Salisbury, UK; resident in Malaga, Spain since 1989. Degree in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish, French and English from Malaga University (2005), specialising in Crime, Forensic Medicine and Genetics. Published translations include three books by Richard Handscombe. Worked with Euro Weekly News since November 2006. Well-travelled throughout Spain and the rest of the world, fan of Harry Potter and most things ‘geek’.

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