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NEWS: Ancient Egyptians Sold Fake Cats

 
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Stewart
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2005 1:42 pm    Post subject: NEWS: Ancient Egyptians Sold Fake Cats Reply with quote

Ancient Egyptians Sold Fake Cats (Discovery)

Ancient Egyptian mummy wrappings hide a number of frauds and flaws, which a high-tech, digital X-ray machine recently exposed among the collections at Chicago's Field Museum.

The machine saw through a mummified cat dated to approximately 500 B.C. that contained only twigs and cotton. It also revealed mummification tools that someone accidentally left inside a real mummy, and it solved a 15,000-year-old mystery surrounding what is believed to be the world's oldest known mummy.

The findings support the theory that the ancients were just as prone to mischief and mistakes as we are today. Experts believe the Mikron Digital Imaging portable X-ray machine, along with a Radpro X-ray tube, may one day become standard devices for research use at museums, universities and remote excavation sites.

Curators and scientists alike were surprised when the machine showed that the cat mummy did not contain any feline remains.

"The person who bought it probably used it as an offering to the goddess Bestat, who possessed the head of a cat," said William Pestle, anthropology collections manager at the Chicago natural history museum.

He explained that mummy standards began to "fall off" around the 25th and 26th dynasties, which existed from 8-7 B.C.

"During these later dates, commoners started to manufacture coffins in huge numbers," Pestle told Discovery News. "Sometimes mummies would not fit into the coffins, so makers would have to break the bones or chip off parts of the coffin."

When Pestle and his colleagues X-rayed a legitimate antelope mummy, they found metal inclusions that were used to give the mummy more heft and stability, along with tools that had been left over from the mummification process.

"The tools look like a cross between a suture needle and a fish hook," Pestle said. He sent images of the objects to a lab at Henry Ford Hospital for further clarification and study.

Perhaps the greatest mystery being unraveled concerns "Mag Girl," a 13,000- to 15,000- year-old mummy excavated in the Dordogne Valley of southwestern France. Mag, short for Magdalenian, was all the rage in 1924 when she went on display at the Field. It was the museum's greatest single day of attendance.

Newspapers at the time spun a story that Mag died as a beautiful, young woman who was killed by a jealous lover with an arrowhead. The rumor was fueled by the as-of-yet unproved possibility that an ivory point was found near her remains in the French rock shelter of Cap Blanc.

"She actually might be the Magdalenian Crone," Pestle said.

The X-rays suggest Mag died in her 30s or 40s, which would have been a fairly long human lifespan for the time. Her molars are impacted, which earlier archaeologists said was evidence of her youth, but it now is thought likely that she suffered from a wisdom tooth problem all of her adult life.

Eventually, scientists hope to extract one of her teeth to learn how old Mag really was when she died.

Kathy Forgey, a University of Illinois at Chicago radiographer and anthropologist, orchestrated the X-ray project.

Forgey often travels to remote archaeological sites in Peru, and hoped to bring the portable device with her. She and colleague Dawn Sturk then decided to try the less than 100-pound machine, formerly used by the armed forces, at the Field Museum.

"It was amazing," Forgey told Discovery News. "Curators kept coming up to us saying, 'I've got something that I would like for you to X-ray.' The process poses minimal damage to objects, and it can pursue many anthropological questions."

Forgey, like Pestle, was surprised by the amount of modification they found in some mummies.

"Often objects that are touted as being authentic wind up having numerous modifications that either occurred when the item was created or later, as it exchanged hands," she said.

Forgey and her colleagues hope a benefactor will allow for the purchase of a Mikron digital X-ray machine, which could be housed at a university or museum for archaeologists to borrow and use.
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2005 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Field is the museum where I am a docent in the Egyptian exhibit. We have around twenty cat mummies (plus many other animal mummies), and no one has been able to tell me exactly which kitty is a fraud. Believe me, you can't tell just by looking at the linen-wrapped exterior. Those priests may have been engaged in fraud, but they were certainly good at it. However, when they died, I would hate to have been one of them as they came across Bastet in the afterlife!

Quote:
He explained that mummy standards began to "fall off" around the 25th and 26th dynasties, which existed from 8-7 B.C.


This is generally true. However, we have one 26th Dynasty mummified man named Harwa, and his preservation is magnificant. He is one of the very best preserved mummies I have ever seen, in person or in print. Of course, it certainly helped that he worked at the Temple of Amun...not as a priest but as a doorman. Harwa died when he was about 60 and, even rarer, his teeth are in excellent condition! faroah You can see them for yourself.

Quote:
Perhaps the greatest mystery being unraveled concerns "Mag Girl," a 13,000- to 15,000- year-old mummy


I should add that the Mag Girl is no longer on display at the Field. I don't know if she'll ever make a return performance. Sad.

But this portable X-ray machine is incredible. They can scan an artifact, and moments later the image prints out from a printer in a nearby room. I wonder if they'll let us docents play with it.

Yeah, right.
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