School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Fascinating Mummies

The University has been involved with an exciting exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, investigating the Rhind Mummy and finding out more about the skeleton inside.

3D reconstruction of the Rhind skeleton
Facial approximation of the Rhind mummy

Fascinating Mummies is an ongoing two part exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland on the cultural aspects on mummification process in Ancient Egypt. Part of the exhibition comes from the National Museum of Antiquities in the Netherlands, one of the world’s leading ancient Egypt collections. Additional artefacts from National Museums Scotland’s own collections including mummies and coffins gathered in the mid-19th century by Scottish archaeologist Alexander Henry Rhind are also on show. A particular feature of the exhibition, and aim of the NMS Mummy Project, is the use of science to reveal new information about the mummies.

The Rhind mummy has been examined using the non-invasive CT scanner at the Clinical Imaging Research Centre (CRIC) of Edinburgh University thanks to the collaboration of Professor E. van Beek, Dr S. Mirsadraee and M. Connell and the radiological team. The scans produced digital X-ray sections of the whole mummy taken at 1mm separation and these data have been used to produce virtual reconstructs of the different features of the embalmed body which has been hidden in the wrappings for more than 2000 years.

By using a range of forensic techniques, Dr. Elena Kranioti of Archaeology at Edinburgh University has been working with the NMS Mummy Project team (J. Tate and S. Kirk) to piece together evidence recorded from the new scans of the Rhind mummy. Dr. Kranioti and her team (B. Osipov, J. Ouranos) studied the virtual reconstruction of the Rhind skeleton, identified the individual as a female Egyptian between 25 and 30 years old with a stature of 158cm and produced an approximation of her face (Figure 3). Additionally to the biological information a scroll, which is believed to contain information on the identity and cause of death of the individual was discovered behind the right thigh of the mummy. Two videos with the preliminary results of the study are projected next to the Rhind at the exhibition. Dr Kranioti talked about her findings to Liz Leonard at the BBC 4 Radio on Woman's hour.