CAIRO: A team from the department of radiography at City University of London has been examining the 2,500-year-old body of a mummy called Tahemaa.
The group, led by Senior Lecturer Jayne Morgan, is using Computed Tomography (CT) scanning equipment in an attempt to discover more about Tahemaa and how she died.
Thus far they have been unable to identify the cause of death but they have dispelled claims that she suffered a fatal blow to the face.
Tahemaa, which was found in Luxor, is on loan to City University from the Bournemouth Natural Science Society. The Society had acquired it from Salisbury Museum in 1920, where it had been donated by the Salisbury Member of British Parliament in 1880.
The CT scan machine used to examine the mummy can generate up to 1,700 photos its insides without having to disturb its covering. Tahemaa’s wrapping isolates her from the destruction of the air and unwrapping it, as the Bournemouth Natural Science Society told the BBC, would destroy “every piece of information.
Tarek El-Awdy, Egyptologist at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, reiterated the virtues of CT scanning, saying that it enables scientists to “tour inside the mummy using non-destructive technology.
With the help of the CT scanner, specialists have been able to create a rough reconstruction of the mummy’s face. Tahemaa, who was about 28 when she died, has been identified as a chantress for the god Amun, which specialists were able to figure out from the markings on her casket.
It is not known how Tahemaa arrived in the United Kingdom, and although looting was a regular occurrence in 19th Century Egypt, El-Awdy, stressed that during this time foreign explorers had the right to take half of what they discovered and that some artifacts were even available for purchase at auctions. For this reason, he considers it very difficult to verify whether Tahemaa left legally or illegally.
Gone are the days of tomb-raiding, however, because since the introduction of a new Egyptian antiquities law in 1983 in, no Egyptian relics are permitted to leave the country except for exhibition.
Whether Tahemaa left Egypt lawfully or not, El-Awdy pointed out that Egypt has lost mummies for far more ridiculous reasons, stating that “in medieval times they burnt mummies to use their remains in medicine; Egypt lost thousands and thousands of mummies this way.
Lotfy Abdel-Hamid, manager of the Exhibitions Abroad Committee at the Egyptian Museum, outlined the importance of having a centralized database of Egyptian artifacts in order to keep track of the numerous Ancient Egyptian artifacts.
Both Hamid and El-Awdy, however, see the merit in keeping Egyptian relics within Egyptian borders because, according to the former, “Once you take an artifact out of its homeland it loses some of its value. He added that context is part of a relic’s information and once it is taken out of its context, it loses part of its identity.
In spite of this, El-Awdy claims that it is not right to claim ownership of Ancient Egypt’s history, stating that it is “part of the heritage of humankind, and that it is “the duty of everyone to protect this heritage.
Hamid also emphasized the importance of sharing Egypt’s history by means of exhibitions abroad because “some people don’t even know anything about the 7,000 years of ancient Egypt because they’ve never seen any Egyptian artifacts.
Egypt hosts one CT scanner that is used exclusively for scanning mummies and it is through this technology that the Supreme Council of Antiquities was finally able to identify conclusively the mummified body of Queen Hatshepsut in 2007.