Friday, August 28, 2009

CT Scan Reveals She Isn't the She They Thought!

From the Quad-City Times Overhauled mummy exhibit debuts today at Putnam Museum Kay Luna Posted: Saturday, August 22, 2009 2:00 am So, she isn't the woman everyone thought she was - and no one will ever know her true identity. Sound familiar? Well, it happens, even among ancient Egyptian mummies. New research being unveiled today at the Putnam Museum shows its iconic female mummy - known as Isis Neferit, a chantress in the Temple of Isis about 3,000 years ago - isn't Isis after all. The sarcophagus, or coffin, on display at the Davenport museum belongs to Isis. It has her name written all over it in hieroglyphics. But the mummified woman inside the coffin is now believed to have died more than 600 years after the coffin was created. And that woman didn't die when she was 20-25 years old like the old plaques in the Putnam's downstairs Egyptian gallery used to state. Instead, she was 40-45 years old - and slightly taller and heftier than museum staff always thought, Putnam curator Christina Kastell said Friday. How does she know? The new information - debuting today in the totally overhauled "Unearthing Ancient Egypt" gallery at the museum - was discovered after CT scans were done on the mummies two years ago at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport. Not only did the medical staff there help decipher the scans, but someone also posted a video of them on YouTube. An Egyptologist, Jonathan Elias of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium in Pennsylvania, watched it online and contacted Kastell at the Putnam, asking for permission to do further research on the museum's two mummies. His study of the coffins and funeral masks was crucial as the museum updated historical information that now appears in the gallery, said Kim Findlay, the Putnam's president and CEO. Elias also believes the Putnam's male mummy comes from a different era than the coffin he was found in, Findlay added. In the early 1900s, mummies often became separated from their proper coffins as people trying to make a buck or two retrieved artifacts - dug up from ancient Egyptian burial plots - and sold them to tourists. The B.J. Palmer estate donated the Isis mummy and coffin to the museum in the 1960s, but the Palmers did not buy the mummy in Egypt, museum spokesperson Lori Arguello said. The male mummy and coffin were purchased by Charles A. Ficke in 1896 in Egypt. Ficke was a world traveler and a former Davenport mayor. After two years of research and several weeks of construction work, visitors will now enter a "tomb-like, immersive" exhibit to see the mummies and other artifacts, including some previously not displayed, found in the museum's huge storage area. An old bronze bust-statue of the female mummy has been replaced with a new bust created by Elias, based on the CT scans that show the woman's bone structure. "They have the same narrow face and pointed chin, but her face is a little fatter," Kastell said. "She wasn't as skinny as she appears now." Her nose and hairstyle are different, too, based on the Egyptologist's studies of people from Akhmim, where this mummy is believed to have been buried. The display blends the old with the new, featuring the mummies alongside touch-screen technology and a 24-hour Web cam. Findlay admitted that taking on a remodeling project of this size and cost - it represents more than $50,000 worth of work - is almost unheard of in an economy such as the present one, but "it unfolded through good fortune in partnerships." The bulk of the project was paid for through grants and in-kind contributions.

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