Mummies Revealed

October 5, 2018
CHESEK—AMNH

Meet the Gilded Lady. She lived in Egypt about 2,000 years ago. Scientists say she probably died of lung disease. They think she was in her 40s.

Scientists used a CT scanner to take this X-ray of the Gilded Lady (left). An artist used several scans to show what the woman may have looked like.

© 2012 E. DAYNES (PHOTO), ELIZABETH DAYNES, PARIS (RECONSTRUCTION)

How do scientists know so much? They looked into the case in which she was sealed. But they did not open it. They used a machine that can see through it. The machine is called a CT scanner. It takes X-ray pictures of a mummy without unwrapping it.

© 2015 THE FIELD MUSEUM, KATRINA KASPARI

Technology has changed the way we study mummies. Long ago, scientists unwrapped them. But that damaged them. “We just don’t do that anymore,” says David Hurst Thomas. He is a curator at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in New York City. “We can do so much better.”

Messages from the Past

The Gilded Lady’s case was made of cartonnage, which is like papier-mâché.

© 2015 FIELD MUSEUM, JOHN WEINSTEIN

Why did ancient Egyptians mummify their dead? They believed their ancestors would live on in a world after death. That’s why Egyptians preserved the Gilded Lady’s body. They thought she would see, hear, taste, and smell with the help of her golden mask.

Pictures taken with a CT scanner gave scientists clues about what the Gilded Lady looked like. A scan of her skull showed that she had an overbite. Another scan showed that she had curly hair. An artist used this information to make a sculpture of the Gilded Lady.

ART MEDIA/PRINT COLLECTOR/GETTY IMAGES

Ellen Futter is the president of AMNH. She calls mummies “messengers from another time.” With the help of technology, we will continue to unwrap mummies’ secrets.

How Mummies Were Made

The mummy was put inside a case. Its organs were put into jars.

© 2015 FIELD MUSEUM, JOHN WEINSTEIN

In Egypt, rulers and wealthy people were mummified after death. Here’s what it takes to make a mummy.

1. Wash the body.

2. Remove the internal organs.

3. Pack the body in salt. This dries it out.

4. After 40 days, remove the salt.

5. Stuff the body with rags to give it shape.

6. Wrap the body in linen.