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Chicago Museum Open Egyptian Sarcophagus

Ancient Egypt

<![CDATA[Conservators have managed to open an ancient Egyptian coffin. A team from the Chicago Field Museum carefully removed the wooden lid, exposing the 2,500-year-old remains of a mummified 14 year old boy. The mummy has been identified as Mirindis, the son of a priest. In order to open the fragile coffin, the team, led by J.P. Brown, used specially created clamps to gently move the lid. All of this was done in a humidity-controlled laboratory to minimise th risk of damage to the wooden coffin. The procedure was a complete success and no damage has been done to the coffin or the mummy. In fact, the mummy was found to be in very good condition. The boy's burial mask and blackened toes were revealed once the lid had been removed. It is unclear what caused Mirindis death, but from particular markings on the coffin and the mummy, it is clear that he was from an affluent family. Mummification in itself was a time-consuming and expensive process, but Mirindis coffin and burial mask were adorned with luxurious coloured resins and gilded gold. It is very likely that he would have followed his fathers footsteps and become a priest as an adult. It is often very dangerous to open ancient coffins as the process is fraught with risk. Whilst removing a lid can reveal tremendous amounts of information, it could also cause irrevocable damage. "There's always a risk of damage," Brown told an interview with PhysOrg. "So we like to handle these things as little as possible." Mummified human remains are particularly fragile and the slightest movement can cause severe damage. So it is particularly exciting that the mummy is so well preserved. "There's nothing else like them [mummified remains]," Molly Gleeson, project conservator at Penn Museum, said. She noted that if something goes wrong, "we can't put things back together exactly the way they were before." To reduce the risk of any damage, the team had done a lot of detailed preparatory work. In order to know what to expect, conservators had conducted CT scans and taken numerous X-ray images; these allowed scientists to see inside the coffin before opening it. The conservation work at Chicago Field Museum has allowed conservators to stabilise and begin repairing the mummy. In its 2,500 years, the coffin had become slightly damaged and pieces have previously gone missing. The boys feet had also become detached and partially unwrapped, meaning that his toes were sticking out. His burial shroud and mask had torn and were twisted sideways. Now the coffin has been opened, all of these issues can be repaired. By repairing the damage and stabilising the mummy, the Chicago team hopes that it will be able to travel for an upcoming exhibit. Mirindis and his coffin will be a main attraction at Mummies: Images of the Afterlife which is expected to premier in September at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It will then travel to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Whilst conservation work is often dangerous, it can preserve ancient artefacts for future generations. As the Chicago team were so careful and precise, they have managed to secure Mirindis safety for years to come.]]>

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