Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Virtual-reality mummy

11.03.2002


Technology unravels mysteries of ancient corpse.


Until recently, the only way to get inside a mummy was to unwrap it
© SPL



Glassy-eyed with a hole in the head - meet Nesperennub, the virtual-reality mummy. A new three-dimensional reconstruction of his insides swoops through musty layers of linen to penetrate his holy skull, without putting the ancient artefact at risk.

Egyptologist John Taylor smuggled the British Museum’s sealed coffin into a hospital computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scanner after hours. The resulting 1,500 flat scans have now been pieced together to create the first interactive virtual-reality mummy. "It’s pretty exciting," says Taylor. The project was premiered at a summit on 3D visualization in Glasgow, UK, last week.


"It’s technology meets archaeology," says David Hughes of high-performance computing company SGI. They provided the powerful hardware and specially built software to manipulate the gigabyte of data churned out by the CAT scans.

The idea to work on the mummy evolved from, and used similar techniques to, the Visible Human Project, a 3D reconstruction of slices through a human body.

The new software reveals surface textures - users can roam freely and zoom in to any feature using an interactive magnifying facility called volume revving. "You can see the pieces of grit in the clay," marvels Hughes, and even the impression left by nerve endings under Nesperennub’s skull.

In the 1960s, X-rays showed something like a cap over Nesperennub’s head. It was thought to be his placenta, saved since birth for luck. But the new graphics reveal it to be a clay bowl, the purpose of which remains "a very puzzling thing", says Taylor. Zooming inside the skull reveals a small hole in his temple, which may be connected to his death.

Until recently, the only way to get inside a mummy was to unwrap it. But this popular nineteenth-century parlour activity makes tissues disintegrate. "A huge amount of data was lost," says Taylor. Simple X-rays are hard to interpret, as solid resin and hard-packed earth inside the corpse are difficult to penetrate.

Using the new visualization technique, archaeologists keen to learn about ancient Egyptians’ appearance and health can reconstruct any body part they like. Taylor plans to build a physical model of the skull and get a picture of Nesperennub’s face. Ultimately, the team hopes to put the reconstruction on public display in the British Museum and other museums worldwide.

It’s a wrap

Nesperennub was a good candidate for internal exploration, as a lot is known about his origins. Hieroglyphics and paintings on the coffin reveal that he was a priest around 800 BC, at the temple of Karnak in the ancient city of Thebes, the forerunner of modern-day Luxor.

He was buried near the Valley of the Kings on the banks of the Nile, and was brought to the British Museum in 1899, probably by travellers or diplomats. A modern ban on the export of antiquities from Egypt means that museums’ mummies are a finite resource.

During the 70-day mummification process, internal organs, except the heart, were usually removed from the body. A rectangular plate covers the incision where they were scraped out of Nesperennub. Like other mummies, he peers through glass fake eyes, inserted by embalmers to ensure that he could see in the afterlife.

Dried with salts and coated with resins and oils to prevent deterioration, the body was then wrapped in linen cloths, alongside a protective winged amulet.

HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How to color a lizard: From biology to mathematics
13.04.2017 | Université de Genève

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>