Volume 76
Number 4

The Uncommon Common Man

Indecision 2000

Fire and Water

Emory University

Association of Emory Alumni

Current News and Events

Emory Report



Sports Updates





























































The painstaking work is a prelude to the spring exhibition, “Mysteries of the Mummies: The Art and Archaeology of Death in Ancient Egypt,’’ and will culminate in the October 6 opening of the new, expanded Egyptian galleries on the museum’s first floor.

For the first time, the museum’s conservation labs were open to visitors for a week in January, allowing some two hundred museum members to have a peek behind the scenes. On this afternoon’s tour, assistant conservator Renee A. Stein is perched on a stool beside the priest’s elaborately painted wooden coffin, using long cotton swabs to gently remove eons of grime without damaging the colorful hieroglyphics beneath.

“We are always limited by what the object allows us to do,’’ she says.

In an adjoining room, conservators are working on reconstructing the Egyptian coffin of Nespekashuti, an overseer of the priests of Min from the twenty-fifth dynasty. The coffin, carved from imported hardwood, was in poor condition when it arrived. “It had fire damage and has been dropped at least twice,’’ conservator Therese M. O’Gorman says.

Workers are bent over small shards of painted wood as if reconstructing a scattered jigsaw puzzle. The team, which includes seven conservators, museum volunteers trained in conservation techniques, visiting Egyptian conservationist Abdel-Rahman El-Serogy, and graduate students, will spend countless hours patiently stabilizing the coffins.

But the museum also is making use of cutting-edge technology in analyzing the artifacts. X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans of the mummies were taken at Emory Hospital’s radiology department, which helped to determine their sex, age, and any diseases or illnesses. DNA tests are being conducted to verify identities.

One of the most exciting discoveries is the possibility that one of the mummies from the Niagara collection is the renowned Ramesses I, the patriarch of Egypt's nineteenth dynasty and grandfather of Ramesses the Great, whose remains are on view at the Cairo Museum.

That possibility generated national attention for the Carlos Museum, when it was reported in the Washington Post and USA Today and broadcast on CNN and NOVA.

The five-foot, five-inch mummy, which arrived unwrapped, has crossed arms, indicating that he was a king or Pharaoh. His hooked nose and high, arched feet are characteristic of the Ramesses line.

“Our virtual imaging showed that there was a hardened mass of molten resin in the mummy’s skull. This type of embalming fluid was reserved for people of royal status because it was so expensive,’’ says Heidi Hoffman of Emory Hospital’s Department of Radiology.

The CT scans–cross-sectional visual “slices’’ of the mummy’s body–were stacked up and manipulated to give researchers the first three-dimensional view of the inside of a mummy. “We were able to take a virtual fly-through of the body, like something out of Fantastic Voyage,’’ says Anthony G. Hirschel, museum director.

Definitive proof that the mummy is, indeed, Ramesses I would come from comparing his DNA to that of his descendants in Cairo. If the mummy does turn out to be the missing Pharaonic patriarch, he will be returned to Egypt.

Jeffrey T. Lell, a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Molecular Medicine who is assisting director Douglas C. Wallace on the DNA project, says they will try to get the DNA from protected areas such as inside long bones and teeth.

“No one has really had success doing what we are trying to do now with Egyptian mummies,’’ Lell says. “Any DNA we get from these mummies is exciting to us.’’–M.J.L.

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© 2001 Emory University