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2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy conserved with advance techniques in Telangana

With an aim of stopping the decay of an over 2,000 year-old Egyptian mummy preserved at Telangana State Museum here, the Department of Archaeology and Museums has begun its preventive conservation using unique and advanced scientific techniques.

The technique — involving CT scan and X-ray examination — is for the first time being used on a decaying mummy in India, officials claimed.

The mummy was obtained by sixth Nizam Mir Mehboob Ali Khan in 1920. His son and last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan donated it to the museum, where it has been kept since 1930.
The mummy here is among the only six Egyptian mummies preserved at museums in the country. It was earlier believed to be of a girl aged 16 to 18 and dated to the Ptolemaic period — 300 BC to 100 BC.

“The scan revealed that the mummy was that of a girl about 25 years of age and of 136 cms in height,” Secretary (Youth Advancement, Tourism and Culture Department) B Venkatesham told reporters here last evening.

“Whatever (use of techniques) has been done here would be the first time in preservation project for human remains and a mummy in India. It can set an example (on conservation) for other mummies in India, and also internationally similar technology can be used for conservation of mummies,” Heritage Conservation Adviser to the project, Vinod Daniel, said.

The mummy will now be kept in an oxygen-free encasement to prevent its further decay.
“All original materials have been kept inside as part of conservation. To minimise the degradation going forward, the mummy will be put in a special showcase,” he said.

The painted cartonnage (a type of material composing Egyptian funerary masks) pieces were kept back in their proper position and the showcase was sealed again, he said.

“The damage to the mummy had happened due to heat, light, temperature, humidity, insects and oxygen,” Daniel said, adding that due to the new oxygen-free case, bacteria and insects will not survive and humidity will be maintained at a stable level in the case.

Venkatesham said, “The kind of techniques they have used…probably one or two museums globally would have used. After the CT Scan and X-rays, the mummy was brought back to the museum and has been placed on the newly-prepared base in the showcase.”

“The rare microscopic photograph and CT scan report of the mummy will also be available for the public view for the first time,” he said, adding that this project will be a case study (for conservation of mummies) across the world.

During the mummification, most of her brain and principal organs were removed. The ribs are damaged and there is a slight dislocation of her spine and one ankle. The rest of her bones, skull and teeth are completely intact. There is probably a metallic amulet inside her body, the two officials said.

The next phase of the treatment will involve remedial conservation and possible restoration of the cartonnage, so that it can then be displayed in a special showcase, Venkatesham said.