Mummy successfully imaged reveals intact brain, but no heart!

 

You can find this picture and the news article here on discovery.

An Egyptian mummy, that thanks to carbon dating has been dated to being around 1,700  years old, has recently undergone investigation. Female in gender, she is believed to be aged between 30-50 years old and has the usual (this word is used tentatively) skeletal and dental palaeopathology expected for her age. Despite the strong Christian presence in Egypt during the Roman occupation, the family of the deceased issued her with an Egyptian style burial, which suggests that Egyptian custom was still upheld in certain areas (although the provenance of this mummy is widely unknown).

The CT imaging of this mummy has revealed that she no longer retained her heart, but that the brain was in tact. Generally speaking, and again this is a crude sweeping statement due to the longevity and diversity of the Egyptian culture, in mummification the heart remained in the body. The heart after all was needed to balance on the scales of truth against the feather of Ma’at in the underworld. It has been believed that the heart was replaced by a scarab beetle amulet if the heart had been damaged during mummification. There is no such amulet in place. I could speculate here and say that the amulets have probably been stolen by grave robbers, however, I have no further information regarding the condition of this mummy to propose that the mummy has been “meddled” with after burial. Furthermore, I have no knowledge of the belief the embalmers held for the need for a heart, perhaps with the changing customs they no longer regarded the heart in high esteem and instead held the brain in such (I will discuss this later). A further reason could be the continuing trend in a devolvement of skill in the ancient embalmers, as their craft became less used and therefore unpractised they could have simply done a very bad job and almost performed a clean sweep of the inners. They may not have fully known all of the customs or were perhaps even too lazy to selectively leave in the heart or replace it if they damaged it, we can only hypothesise on this.

As for the brain being left in, I am aware of this happening in some late 18th dynasty mummies, for example the younger mummy in KV35. I also recall an investigation of five mummies from the 21st dynasty whereby four out of the five retained their brains (I will find to reference at a later date). It may have been the change in belief during the Amarna period which created a desire for the brain to be left in tact, this may be true of the 21st dynasty as it was part of the Third Intermediate Period and this also could have been the case during the Roman period. I feel I have not researched this area before in any depth, although I may after this article (so look out for an update). So realistically, anything I say is purely my inference.

 

I suppose the last strange quality of this mummy was the use of plaques over the abdomen and sternum. Sometimes plaques were used as a supernatural glue, to bring together the flesh of the mummification incisions in the next life. However, these plaques were positioned where there were no incisions. It has already been suggested by the team working on the mummy that the one covering the sternum may have served to replace the heart. Again I don’t think even in general enough research has been done on this to hypothesise fully. However, I will add my thoughts here, it could be further proof that the mummy had been tampered with post inhumation, perhaps the plaques did in fact cover the incision holes as were the custom but were moved (a long with the scarab for the heart). A second theory could be supporting the idea that the work of the embalmers was sloppy, and they really had no customary idea of where they were supposed to place everything, they had the materials, did the job they thought and shoved in the plaques. I couldn’t possibly assert this claim to being anything other than pure conjecture without knowing the quality of other aspects of the mummification.

 

Picture taken from Livescience

Anyway, something to think about!

 

 

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