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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>