Watch: Scientists determine decapitated mummy head belonged to woman
Scientists have concluded that the decapitated head of an Egyptian mummy discovered in an attic in Kent belonged to a woman.
The head, which is at least 2,000 years old, is believed to have been brought to the UK from Egypt as a souvenir in the 19th century and given to the owner in the early 20th century.
It was later discovered in a glass case during a clear-out after the death of a man in Ramsgate.
The head, minus any wrappings or its body, was inherited by the man's brother who took it to the Canterbury Museums and Galleries for analysis in 2020.
Now X-rays undertaken at Canterbury Christ Church University suggested it was an adult female, whose worn teeth led scientists to believe she ate grains – a common food among ancient Egyptians.
The CT scan also shows tubing of unknown material within the left nostril and in the spinal canal, but it is unclear whether this is from ancient Egyptian times or was placed there later.
Further tests showed the woman, whose brain had been removed after she died, suffered from a severe case of atherosclerosis that affected a number of her arteries.
The position of the remains suggests the woman was not discovered until hours after her death, and embalmers preserved the body as it was found.
Scientists are now hoping to recreate the face of the mysterious mummy and reconstruct the hidden history of the individual.
James Elliott, senior radiographer at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, said: “The scan provides a huge amount of information – everything from dental status, pathologies, method of preservation as well as helping our estimations of age and sex.
“We plan on using the scanning data to create a three-dimensional replica of the head and possible facial reconstruction to allow a more intensive study of it without exposing the actual artefact.”
Elliott explained how mummification was “common practice” within ancient Egypt but with the advancement of CT technology, more detail can be researched on ancient Egyptian traditions.
The head is being preserved by professional archaeological conservator Dana Goodburn-Brown ACR, who is also coordinating the research efforts.
As part of a collaborative scientific investigation of the head, experts from Canterbury Christ Church University, University of Kent and University of Oxford, will attempt to reconstruct the history of the individual.
Ritchie Chalmers, chief of service for core clinical services, said: “It’s great to see how modern technology can help bring ancient history to life. I, along with the rest of the trust, look forward to finding out what the CT scan unveils.”
The CT data from this individual will help to understand the wider picture of mummification and will be shared with the IMPACT Mummy Database hosted by Western University.