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The mystery inside the mummies has a real human face in Egypt

More than 2,000 years ago, when the Romans invaded Egypt in the 1st century BC, they introduced here an art form called “panel painting” or paintings on wood pieces. The Egyptians then used this very art form to replace cardboard portraits, which they used to place on top of mummies to bring their vitality to life.

Unlike plaster masks mixed with plaster that can only depict cartoon faces, paintings on wood can almost capture the mummy’s surreal face, turning it into technology. portrayed people in more detail than ever at that time.

Panel painting was introduced to Egypt since the Roman rule

A mummy before burial will be portrayed on wood. The mummified person would then place the piece of wood on top of the head, covering up where the real face was. They braced the frame around the picture and then wrapped the cloth over the whole mummy to just expose the painting’s correct position.

These mummies were given a special name “Fayum mummy portraits “, or the Faiyum basin portrait mummy, an area west of the Nile where they are most commonly found. From a distance, it feels like Faiyum’s mummies are just like a living person lying in a sleeping bag.

Archaeologists estimate there are thousands of Faiyum mummies in Egypt. But most of them have lost the wood on their face. “Currently, there are only about 100-150 portraits still associated with the mummy“, Says Stuart Stock, professor of cell research and developmental biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago.

One of these mummies is currently preserved in the collections of the Northwestern University Museum of Art. The task that they were assigned is to be able to both preserve these mummies intact and be able to study what is inside it.

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A mummy with a real human face is housed at the Northwestern University art museum

And to see through the layers of cloth wrapped around this mummy, as usual, scientists like Professor Stock will use X-rays. However, the technique they use this time X-rays is a technique used for the first time: diffraction in conjunction with computer CT scans.

New technology to see through the mummy

When you arrive at the hospital and step inside a CT scanner, you will hear the machine whirring like a rotor spinning around you. These are X-ray guns, and each rotation, they shoot out invisible beams of high energy that can penetrate your body.

On the opposite side of the gun, a sensor collects the X-rays through, reconstructs their path and produces a 2D sliced ​​image of your body. These 2D layers of images overlap, the computer will create a 3D image to help doctors see your overall body, find out the damage inside bones or soft tissue structures.

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The mummy was placed on an X-ray scanner

In mummification studies, archaeologists will also bring their specimens to the hospital and put them in such CT scanners. (It’s a fact that you should know, at some hospitals archaeologists visit, sometimes the CT scanner you are lying on today was lying down by an Egyptian mummy yesterday.) .

But while a CT scan only captured X-rays shot through the mummy on the opposite side, the diffraction technique used by Professor Stock also allowed X-rays to be recorded. “stray” ra in different directions, sometimes interacting like ripples on the water’s surface.

Analysis of these diffraction streaks could also allow scientists to reconstruct the inner 3D image of the mummy, and to include the material made of them (which is not possible with CT scans).

Because each surface that X-rays shoot at and different materials are inside the body, diffraction results will have different properties, reverse these features by algorithm will produce an image. penetrating the material to which the X-ray is targeted.

“This is the first time that X-ray diffraction has been used on an intact mummy“, Professor Stock said.”Combining both CT scans with X-ray diffraction offers great promise for mummification studies that require non-invasive samples. ”

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X-ray diffraction technique can reveal the material of an object inside the mummy

Five-year-old child, nail marks and a scarab amulet

The portrait mummy preserved at Northwestern University is denoted “Hawara Portrait Mummy No. 4 “. It was excavated between 1910 and 1911 at the Hawara site of ancient Egypt. The area is also part of the Fayum basin west of the Nile River, where portrait mummies are commonly found.

From the outside, this piece of wood on the head of this mummy number 4 depicts an adult woman. Oddly, however, the mummy was only the size of a child. Its length from the top of its head to its feet is only 937 mm and the extra fabric is only 50 mm thick. That is the reason that scientists want to confirm inside the body is actually a child or part of a woman’s body.

Professor Stock scanned the CT X-rays from top to bottom to determine its structure. The results showed that this is the body of a child. The skull shows that even this child’s permanent teeth have not yet grown. Analysis of CT results in the thigh showed that it was a child as young as 5 years old.

No bone damage has been reported, making the cause of the baby’s death a mystery. Scientists only knew it could be a mild, painless death.

After determining the structure of the mummy with CT X-rays, the scientists discovered some anomalous structures and projected a thin stream of X-rays that diffracted on it. Usually, previous CT scans are of low resolution and will not allow looking at these small structures.

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Although the face of an adult woman is drawn, the mummy underneath it is a 5-year-old child who has not yet teething.

On the body of the corpse, for example, Professor Stock discovered an elliptical object about 7 mm long. They named it “Inclusive F”. Diffraction X-rays revealed for the first time the material of this ellipse, it was made of calcite, the most stable form of limestone found in nature.

“This opaque object has a shape that is suitable for a dung beetle“, explains Professor Stock. In ancient Egyptian culture, “scarab is a symbol of rebirth”.

Most likely, this scarab was placed on the child’s stomach like a charm. Usually, the Egyptian mummies would place their amulets on the damaged body during the procedure. This amulet is thought to protect the weak point on the dead person’s body when going to the other world, Professor Stock explained.

In addition, X-ray diffraction revealed 36 structures that resemble needles around the mummy. 11 of them appear on the neck and head, 20 needles are near the feet and the remaining 5 are on the body.

The material to make these needles or pins is metal, but Professor Stock said it seems that these needles are very new, only penetrating the body a century ago.

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Inside the mummy are very new metal nails, which seem to have been pierced about 100 years ago.

It is not clear who did this and for what. Professor Stock said: “Every time you do a study like this, you get more questions than answers.”. In the future, scientists will continue to improve their X-rays to increase their resolution. At that time, more mysteries of the Egyptian mummy will be answered.

Future x-rays are expected to reveal even more sophisticated structures inside the mummy, even including patterns carved on objects without opening them.

The new study was published in the journal Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Refer Sciencealert, Phys, CNN

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