VMFA curators examine mummified remains with CT technology | Latest news

From GERMAN LYNDON Richmond Times-Dispatch

Using a combination of X-rays and computer imaging, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts uncovered the remains of two ancient mummies on loan for the museum’s ancient art exhibit.

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

Chris Greene, the facility’s director of imaging, said this experience was certainly disparate from his daily MRI and X-ray responsibilities.

“This is absolutely out of the ordinary for us,” said Greene. “When VMFA contacted us to help us with their research, we definitely jumped at the opportunity.”

Greene and his staff helped curators examine two artifacts donated to the museum by a collector.

The VMFA received two small packs of mummies from the collection. One of the bundles was shaped like a hawk while the other featured a more human-like effigy, said Pete Schertz, curator of the museum of ancient art.

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“One of the animal mummies is a hawk mummy with a human face. The second mummy is also shaped like a hawk, but it has no apparent animal remains, “Schertz said.” This has several types of material inside, as far as we know. “

CT scans found that both mummies were actually made for animals, though they’re not sure if the bones are still intact.

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

Although the curators are early in their identification process, Schertz said he believes the mummies originated somewhere between the late period of Egypt between 664 and 332 BC.

He said he hopes CT scans will help recreate clearer images of the interior of these mummies and possibly even identify some of the materials used to make the mummies.

“This information will be incorporated into our case installation labeling, which will focus on laboratory archeology,” said Schertz.

Laboratory archeology is the science that helps make sense of ancient artifacts once they’ve been excavated, Schertz said.

The VMFA used this method in 2011 when they used facial reconstruction on one of their own mummies, Tjeby.

One of the goals of the display is to show viewers how STEM learning principles extend into their work.

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

“It’s important that when we look at art, we look at it from multiple objectives,” said Schertz. “With science, we can uncover a lot of history that we may not know in advance.”

Schertz said he hopes to have a couple of 3D models of the artifacts for educational purposes when the mummies are on display later in July, when they join VMFA’s vast collection of ancient art.

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