Technology unravels mysteries of ancient corpse.
Until recently, the only way to get inside a mummy was to unwrap it
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 Museums 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. "Its pretty exciting," says Taylor. The project was premiered at a summit on 3D visualization in Glasgow, UK, last week.
Its 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
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