VMFA curators examine mummified remains with CT technology Latest news

Author: LYNDON GERMAN Richmond Times-Dispatch

With a combination of X-rays and computer-generated imagery, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts found the remains of two old mummies donated to the museum’s ancient art exhibit.

VMFA members met Friday with HCA Virginia health officials at Independence Park Imaging, where medical professionals conducted a non-invasive scan to create a partially conserved digital interior model.

Chris Greene, director of imaging at the facility, said this experience was different from the day-to-day responsibilities of MRI and X-rays.

“This is completely out of the norm for us,” Green said. “When VMFA contacted us to help with its research, we certainly jumped at the chance.”

Greene and his staff assisted the curators in examining two artifacts donated to the museum by a collector.

VMFA received two small bundles of mummies from the collection. One of the lucky ones looked like a hawk, and the other looked more like a human, said Pete Schertz, the museum’s director of ancient art.

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“One of the mummies of animals is a hawk mummy with a human face. The second mummy is also in the shape of a hawk, but it also has no apparent animal remains, ”Schertz said. “This has different types of materials inside, as we can tell.”

CT scans revealed that the two mummies were made for animals, although they do not know whether the bones are still intact.

Schertz said that it was common in ancient Egyptian culture to mummify animals for sentimental and religious reasons.

Although the commissioners are in the early stages of the identification process, Schertz said he believes the mummies originated between the last period of Egypt between 664 and 332 BC.

He said CT scans will help recreate clearer images inside these mummies and perhaps identify some of the materials used to make the mummies.

“This information will be included in our labeling to install the case, which will focus on laboratory archeology,” Schertz said.

Archeology in the lab is a science that helps make sense of ancient artifacts after excavation, Schertz said.

VMFA used this method in 2011 when it used facial reconstruction on one of its mummies, Tjebyn.

One of the aims of the screen is to show viewers how STEM learning principles extend to their work.

Schertz said the museum has made an effort to highlight the intersection of art and science.

“It’s important when we look at art to look at it through multiple lenses,” Schertz said. “With science, we may be able to find a lot of history that we may not have known before.”

Schertz said the mummies are expected to have a pair of 3D artifact models when they go on display later in July, for educational purposes, when they will be merged with VMFA’s extensive art collection.

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