The Sydney University researchers had no idea the 2,500-year-old coffin was filled with human remains. Photo: Abc.net.au
An Ancient Egyptian mummy with a cast similar to one found inside a coffin of Tutankhamun has been discovered by accident in 2,500-year-old coffin that had been kept at Sydney University in Australia for 150 years.
The archaeologists who removed the lid of the coffin from Ancient Egypt were not aware that it contained actual human remains, Abc.net.au reports.
Hieroglyphics on the Ancient Egyptian coffin indicate that it was made for a priestess named Mer-Neith-it-es.
However, coffins sometimes do not contain the remains of those for whom they were intended.
What is more, the mummy’s remains have been scrambled, so the Sydney University researchers are using advanced technology to try to learn about the human buried in the coffin from Ancient Egypt.
“A tomb robber has probably come in and rooted all the way through trying to find jewels and amulets,” lead investigator, Dr. Jamie Fraser, is quoted as saying.
It is noted that often the mummies get removed from their original coffin but Egyptian antiquity sellers would put another mummy inside if a customer requested it.
“We are about to start a really detailed project to scientifically investigate these remains in the coffin and ask a whole bunch of questions, but really, ‘Who is inside the coffin?'” Fraser adds.
As part of the investigation of the mystery Egyptian mummy, the coffin and its contents were laser scanned to create 3D models, and underwent a detailed CT scan.
Even though the mummy’s remains have been scrambled, radiologist Prof. John Magnussen says there are still enough left to solve the mystery at least to some extent.
“It’s older, and it’s got some early degenerative changes and the sacrum is fused, so we know it’s definitely an adult,” he says, adding that the feet and ankle bones are largely intact.
“We know that Mer-Neith-it-es herself, this priestess for whom this coffin was made, was an adult. And the joins in those bones say, yeah, they’re the remains of an adult, and actually they’re the remains of an adult of 30-plus," Fraser explains.
“There could even be toenails which would be thrilling — that’s what I want. The toenails are fantastic for radiocarbon dating,” says egyptologist Connie Lord who went through layers of debris to find the feet of the mummy.
As she examined the Egyptian mummy, she discovered the resin poured into the mummy’s skull after its brain was removed.
In her words, the cast is similar to one found inside a coffin of one of the most famous mummies ever discovered, Tutankhamun.
“It could tell us so much. It’s just an incredible find, I don’t remember anyone finding something like this. It would have to be incredibly rare,” Lord is quoted as saying.
“Little by little this excavation is really telling us more about the person in the coffin and hopefully give it some dignity that it lost when in ancient times it was looted so badly,” she adds.
The scan of the Ancient Egyptian mummy’s coffin. Photo: Abc.net.au
The further analysis to identify the mummy’s remains to a more definite end is expected to take months or years.
The 2,500-year-old coffin of Ancient Egyptian priestess Mer-Neith-it-es’ coffin is to be exhibited in a new museum at Sydney University alongside three other coffins owned by the Nicholson Museum.
The display is also to demonstrate the efforts of the research team to find out who is inside what was thought for the past 150 years to be an empty coffin.