January 16, 2010

Scientists Fail To Authenticate Bird Mummy

An Egyptian mummy - known as Pa-Ib - that was examined by researchers using new imaging technology, offered no evidence that a packet inside her entombed body contained the remains of a bird mummy, a speculation based on previous tests.

The Associated Press reports that scientists were thrilled to possibly uncover a bird mummy encased in the corpse's body. It would be an usual, yet exciting find. However, the imaging tests done on Thursday at Quinnipiac University in North Haven, Connecticut revealed no bird-like encasement in the corpse. The packets found in the mummy are most likely organs that were wrapped up and placed back inside for use in the afterlife.

The 4,000 year-old mummy that had been housed in the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport since the end of the 19th century, was transported Thursday to the university in New Haven via police escort, where the scanning took place. The thousands of images taken were eight times more resolute than tests done in 2006.

Researchers theorized that the mummy was that of a commoner based on findings. The embalming process appeared to be rushed, offering evidence that the woman was not royalty. The woman was between 30 and 40 at the time of her death, but probably closer to 30 as the new tests reveal. Due to evidence of arthritis in the pelvic area, researchers are looking for signs that the woman gave birth as well.

The stitch on the wrappings of the mummy may give clues as to where she lived. Also, tests did not conclude how she died, but signs of calcium buildup in the packets may suggest there was an infection. The researchers plan to reveal the conclusions of their studies in March.

Lorelei Corcoran, director of the Institute of Egyptian art and archaeology at the University of Memphis, said that she knows of only two human mummies with bird mummies inside them. One is located in the J. Paul Getty Museum in California and another is in Switzerland.

She said confirmation of no bird mummy in this particular mummy is important because it eliminates any doubts about that possibility. Birds such as the falcon and the ibis were highly associated with the Egyptian god Thoth, who was believed to have an influential role in the final stage of judgment of the dead.

The new imaging tests were observed by high school students.


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