Non-invasive study of mummified ibises

Two 2000-year-old mummified ibises, discovered in 1913 in Abydos, Egypt, underwent neutron tomography providing insight into the content of the mummy packets.

CT scans of a mummy (by University of Sydney)

These two ibis packages, believed to date to the Roman period, were uncovered by the British-based Egyptian Exploration Society at an “ibis cemetery” near the Royal Tombs in Abydos. About 2500 ibises were uncovered there. Many were preserved inside 93 clay jars. In ancient Egypt, the ibis was sacred to the god Thoth, the scribe of the gods. They were mummified as offerings to the gods.

Mummy bundle containing an ibis (by University of Sydney)

Research based on x-rays taken before the 1990s suggested one of the mummified packets being studied contained two ibises and the other contained only a single thigh bone. Using neutron tomography – an imaging technique never before used on mummified remains, Candace Richards, Conni Lord, and Filomena Salvemini found that the packet thought to contain only a thigh bone actually contained a whole ibis, complete with feathers. The researchers also found out that the two ibises in the same package were juveniles. The two wrapped packets are on display at the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney, Australia.

Analysis of the CT scans (by University of Sydney)

(after The Guardian & University of Sydney)

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