In a first of its kind study, scientists have finally been able to scan through a mummy that was prepared 1,800 years ago in Egypt. They were able to get a glimpse of the inside part of the ancient Egyptian mummy by scattering high-energy particle accelerators that work like x-rays. They chose this unique particle accelerator technique because it causes no damage to the mummy.

A team of Northwestern University scientists and students carried the research of the Hibbard mummy and informed that it contains the remains of a young girl who lived in an agricultural community across the west of Nile. The researchers believe that girl was around five years old when she died, and her mummy was made during the late first century A.D. Archaeologists unearthed the mummy way back in 1911 in Hawara, an ancient Egyptian archaeological site and they kept the mummy at the Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Recently, the mummy was taken from Evanston to Argonne National Laboratory for an all-day X-ray scattering experiment as part of a comprehensive scientific investigation. Talking about this first of its kind study performed on a human mummy, Stuart R. Stock, research professor of cell and molecular biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said, “This is a unique experiment, a 3-D puzzle. We have some preliminary findings of the various materials, but it will take days before we tighten down the precise answers to our questions. We have confirmed that the shards in the brain cavity are likely solidified pitch, not a crystalline material.

There are approximately 100 portrait mummies in the world, and this Hibbard mummy is one of them. Those portrait mummies had some lively paintings on the wrappings that provide information about the deceased. Those extremely lifelike paintings were placed directly over the person’s face.

Co-Author Mark Walton, a research professor of materials science and Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, said that Intact portrait mummies are extremely rare and to have one at the campus was revelatory for the class and exhibition. He said that their team’s main purpose of studying Hibbard mummy was to see how the physical sciences can be used to deconstruct art behind it. “We’re trying to get into the mind of the artist to understand why they’re making certain choices based upon the economics of the materials, their physical structure, and then use that information to be able to rewrite history, informed Walton.

With the help of the synchrotron experiment that uses extremely brilliant high-energy synchrotron X-rays produced by Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source, scientists trying to get an inside view of the Hibbard, mummy girl. They want to know how the mummy was made, what materials were used, what is there inside the mummy and how the girl died. The CT scan revealed that the girl had no physical injuries and from this scientists theorized the girl might have died from some disease like smallpox, tuberculosis or malaria, as reported by Chicago Tribune. Let us see how much more mysteries are there to unravel from this rare intact portrait mummy.


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