Thursday, June 30, 2016

Peek Inside Cat Mummies With New X-ray Images

Turns out there's more than one way to scan a cat.

By Joshua Rapp Learn

Archaeologists may soon unravel the mysteries of ancient Egypt using a new imaging technique that offers a better look inside mummies without removing a single piece of wrapping.

The new kind of CT scan has been successfully tested on cat mummies from the collections of the South Australian Museum. While the exact ages of these mummies are unknown, feline mummies were fairly common in Egypt from about 600 B.C. until A.D. 250.

Typical CT scans use a single type of x-ray to take images of an object from multiple angles and then create a digital image of the insides. Such scans can tell the difference between muscle and bone based on their relative density. But this can present challenges for mummies: As they get older, their skin and muscles dry up and become denser, while the bones lose marrow and become less dense.

The new technique, known as atomic number imaging, instead uses two kinds of x-rays to peer inside stuff and figure out the hidden composition based on a material’s atomic number—one of the defining characteristics of a chemical element. For instance, the scans can distinguish between bones filled with calcium and phosphorous and muscle, which is mostly carbon.

“It’s a technique that can be done on any CT scanner,” says lead author James Bewes, a radiology resident at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia, who describes the work in the August issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“We can dive that little bit deeper into the makeup of what we’re imaging,” Bewes says. “We’re trying to tell how they lived and how they died through their bones and through their muscles.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ministry of Antiquities trying to decipher the most controversial mystery coffin in the history of ancient Egypt

The Ministry of Antiquities is trying to decipher the most controversial mystery coffin in the history of ancient Egypt

The Ministry of Antiquities resumes the study of the golden fragments found inside a wooden box inside the store of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir with a grant of $28,500 provided by the American Research Center (ARCE) Endowment Fund 2016.

Elham Salah, Head of Museums Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities pointed out that the study will be conducted by a team of Egyptian archaeologists and restorers from the Egyptian Museum who would study another group of these fragments, which are likely belong to the sarcophagus of tomb KV 55 on the West Bank of Luxor.

Salah also explained that this study significantly contributes in resolving the controversy over the identity of the sarcophagus found in tomb KV55, considered as one of the most controversial sarcophagus in the ancient Egyptian history. This sarcophagus is currently displayed in the Egyptian museum, she pointing out, and the studies conducted by the working team last year figured out the possibility of subordination of these fragments to the sarcophagus.

Islam Ezzat, member of the scientific office at the ministry of antiquities pointed out that after the completion of this extensive study the identity of the owner of this sarcophagus would be determined as well as the owner of tomb KV55. The researchers team is currently working on the dating of this sarcophagus through figuring out the similarities of these fragments with the sarcophagus and its inscriptions.

It is worth mentioning that the wooden box inside the museum’s store had about 500 golden fragments, a small part of a human skull, a paper written by hand in French dates to the time of the discovery of the tomb indicate that these fragments belong to a royal sarcophagus without specifying its name.

The researched team is working under the supervision of a large collection of Egyptian antiquities and restoration scientists in Egypt and the world including Prof./ Faeza Hekal professor of Egyptology at the American University, Prof./Hassan Selim professor of Egyptology at Ain Shams University, Prof./Mark Gabold professor of ancient Egyptian language at the University of Montpellier in France, Prof./ Arnest Brnikas professor of material science at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Prof. Suseran Janescy Great Restorer in Boston Museum at the United States of America, and Hala Hassan, head of the first section of the Egyptian Museum.

Source: Ministry of Antiquities

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Great Pyramid of Giza Gets High-Tech Scan

Scientists have turned to subatomic particles known as muons to scan the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum.

By Rossella Lorenzi

For the past 23 years researchers have been trying to unlock the mysteries of the Great Pyramid in Giza using tomb-raiding robots. Now scientists have turned to subatomic particles known as muons to scan the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum. The aim is to detect voids that might point to hidden chambers and tunnels.

The full scan of the iconic monument is one of several ambitious steps of ScanPyramids, a project carried out by a team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based non-profit organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation (Hip Institute) under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

In April the team was able to reveal for the first time the internal structure of the Bent pyramid at Dahshur, using cosmic particles.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the ScanPyramids team detailed three non-invasive techniques employed at Giza. The results of the survey will be shared with several committees representing different scientific disciplines. One of them will gather a number of Egyptologists led by the former minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass.

"Our team is trying to get evidence from the field that some voids exists. Then it will be the role of historians, Egyptologists, architects, to tell why those voids are there," Mehdi Tayoubi, co-director of the ScanPyramids mission, told Discovery News.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

King Tut’s Dagger Made of Extraterrestrial Material

By Robin Ngo  •  06/07/2016

King Tut owned a dagger that was out of this world—literally. Researchers have recently published a study in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science that supports what has long been suspected: The ancient Egyptians were using meteoritic iron well before the spread of iron smelting technology.

In 1925, famed archaeologist Howard Carter—who three years earlier had discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings—found in the pharaoh’s mummy wrapping two daggers: one with a blade of gold and one with a blade of iron. The iron-bladed dagger, finely made with a gold handle and pommel of rock crystal, has long been the subject of debate, as it predates the pervasiveness of iron smelting technology (the extraction of iron from its ore) in the Mediterranean by several centuries. King Tut—whose father Akhenaten established during his reign worship of a single god, the sun-disk Aten—ruled c. 1332–1323 B.C.E. in the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt.

Iron objects dating to the Bronze Age have been found sporadically throughout the Mediterranean, the oldest of which are nine small beads that were excavated from a 3200 B.C.E. tomb in Gerzeh, Egypt. While iron was sometimes obtained at this time as a byproduct of copper and bronze smelting, scholars assumed that during the Bronze Age, objects manufactured in ironworking were made from meteoritic iron.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Saqqara pyramid reopens

The Unas Pyramid at Saqqara and three tombs have been officially reopened after restoration, reports Nevine El-Aref

Last Thursday evening, as the sun was about to set over the horizon at the Saqqara necropolis outside Cairo, Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Enany stood ready to reopen the site’s Unas Pyramid and three ancient Egyptian tombs from the Old and New Kingdoms following their restoration.

With him were top officials, foreign and Egyptian archaeological experts and Egyptian and international journalists. The group stood for a few minutes at the foot of the Unas Pyramid, candles in hand, to pay homage to those who died in the Egyptair flight that crashed in the Mediterranean two weeks ago.

Al-Enany then guided those present to the pyramid and the tombs of the Old Kingdom officials Ankh-Mahor and Nefer-Seshem-Ptah and the New Kingdom tomb of Nemty-Mess.

“The reopening of these sites highlights the fruitful bilateral cooperation between the Ministry of Antiquities and foreign and Egyptian missions working in Egypt,” Al-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that there will be future cooperation within the framework of international scientific regulations for the benefit of all parties.

He said that the reopenings are part of the ministry’s plans to open more archaeological sites and tourist attractions as part of efforts to help restore Egypt’s tourism industry.

The pyramid of the Fifth-Dynasty pharaoh Unas was the last to be built during the dynasty. Despite its small size, it is considered one of the most important because it was the first to have recorded the ancient Egyptian “Pyramid Texts” on its tomb walls, these being of great religious importance as they were believed to ensure the resurrection of the deceased king.