A Conversation With the Past Through Modern Mummification

Until recently modern mummification using traditional techniques had not been performed. A modern mummy, however, offers a unique and valuable connection between modern research and the ancient world.

McMaster Researcher

Citation

Wade, A., Beckett, R., Conlogue, G., Gonzalez, R., Wade, R., & Brier, B. (2015). MUMAB: A Conversation With the Past. The Anatomical Record, 298, 954-973. Retrieved from Wiley Periodicals.

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What is this research about?

This research examines the results of a modern mummy, called MUMAB (Mummy, University of Maryland at Baltimore), embalmed using techniques in line with ancient Egyptian tradition. This process enables conversation between the original embalmers and the researchers, a process not possible before. 

What did the researchers do?

Authors assessed MUMAB in detail using radiographic imaging, including the assessment of: 

  • Age, sex, and social status 
  • Removal of the brain (excerebration) 
  • Removal of the intestines (evisceration) 

The researchers then shared their analysis with the original embalmers to determine accuracy between the assumptions made and the actual procedures performed. 

What did the researchers find?

Through correspondence with the original embalmers, the researchers were able to determine that most of their assessments were accurate, closely representing the procedures performed on MUMAB. The researchers were also able to uncover some mistaken assumptions through this conversation. For example: 

  • Mistaken about the craniotomy performed 
  • Mismeasurement of the abdominal incision 
  • Misidentification of some of the packers placed inside the body cavity

How can you use this research?

MUMAB offers a benchmark against which the ancient Egyptian mummies can be compared. This project will help researchers clarify the correlations and the assumptions they believe to exist. Research will be of use to museums which house ancient Egyptian mummies.  It will be of interest to anyone interested in the study of ancient Egypt.

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