A Mummy Was Found In An "Empty" Coffin By Australian Researchers & It's An Amazing Discovery
Researchers in Australia have made a startling discovery about what they thought was an empty sarcophagus on display at a museum: It actually contains parts of a mummy. While this may sound like the stuff of nightmares, archeologists are excited about the findings. The sarcophagus is 2,500 years old, according to ABC Australia, and even though it seems to have been looted, the remains that are there can still tell researchers a lot. It was on display for 160 years at the Nicholson Museum in Sydney before the findings, which took place last June. It's an amazing discovery that a mummy was found in an "empty" coffin, even though it may feel a bit creepy.
Researchers wanted to look at the hieroglyphics under the coffin, and as they were inspecting the coffin, they discovered human remains. They put the coffin in a 3D scanner and also sent it for a CT scan to find out more about the mummy. "Previously, the technology hasn't been there so curators have put it to one side to be dealt with later," said Jamie Fraser, the museum's senior curator, in an interview with Mashable. "If we had done this project 10 years ago, we wouldn't have been able to do it. Now is the moment that we can actually address this."
If you're creeped out at the idea of a mummy-filled coffin, I totally understand. This made me think of watching The Mummy as a kid and having subsequent nightmares, but mummification is actually an important process, and this finding could be historic for archeologists. Although mummies are preserved well, they're usually left wherever they've been buried out of respect for the dead, according to ABC Australia. The coffin was purchased by one of the museum's founders, and the museum thought it was filled with debris. ABC Australia says the hieroglyphics on the coffin show it was made for a priestess named Mer-Neith-it-es, although they don't know if her remains are what they found in the coffin. And even though the body is super old, researchers still have to treat everything they find with respect. "Everything we do has to be respectful to that individual inside. To go through all these mixed jumble of remains is a hugely intricate, delicate job," Fraser told Mashable.
So far, researchers have identified toe and ankle bones, but ABC Australia says it could be years before they actually find out who the remains belonged to. Egyptologist Connie Lord told ABC Australia that the mummified remains could reveal a lot. "There could even be toenails which would be thrilling — that's what I want," she told the publication. "The toenails are fantastic for radiocarbon dating." (You learn something new every day, I guess.) Lord called the findings "incredibly rare" and said researchers can learn a lot from it. "Little by little, this excavation is really telling us more about the person in the coffin and hopefully give it some dignity that it lost when in ancient times it was looted so badly," Lord told ABC.
Mashable says the researchers to open an exhibit at Chau Chak Wing Museum in Sydney to display the mummy as they continue to investigate their findings. "It'll be a great opportunity to integrate all this scientific research we've done, like the CT animations and 3D models, and show them alongside the mummies," Fraser told Mashable. I'm several thousand miles away from Australia, but if you're near Sydney, you now have the ultimate reason to go on a museum trip. And if you're a lover of archeology, it may be worth planning a vacation to see this amazing discovery.