The recent CT scan of Maidstone Museum’s mummy – Ta-Kush – at the Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery (KIMS Hospital) has already revealed myriad fascinating findings, but further scans on other objects within the museum’s Ancient Civilisations gallery have provided equally impressive insights into the collection.
“The initial results of Ta-Kush’s scan were remarkable,” said Samantha Harris, Collections Manager at Maidstone Museum. “Not only did we find evidence of fully erupted wisdom teeth to help us identify that her age was probably much higher than was first thought, but also that there was evidence of a wedge fracture in one of her vertebrae – a symptom of patients suffering a downward impact such as a fall. These findings – as well as others we expect to learn once the full scans are analysed during work at Liverpool John Moores University – have helped us learn so much about Ta-Kush already, and we can’t wait to find out more in the coming months.”
In addition to the scan of Ta-Kush, the team at Maidstone Museum was provided with the opportunity to scan a number of other items from the Ancient Civilisation gallery, scans which ultimately delivered astounding findings.
“Among the other items we analysed was a piece that had initially been classified as ‘A mummified hawk with linen and cartonnage, Ptolemaic period (323 BC – 30BC)’,” continued Harris. “Following the scans at KIMS Hospital, the remains were in fact revealed to be the mummy of a baby. Initial reviews identified the baby to be a miscarried c.20-week gestation foetus which, if found to be the case, will be one of the youngest human mummies recorded anywhere in the world.
“Thanks to the CT scanning from KIMS Hospital, we are able to learn much more about the collections in a non-invasive way, without damaging the integrity or condition of the artefacts. For example, without access to the technology, identifying and learning about the baby mummy would’ve been impossible without causing irreversible damage from unwrapping.”
This remarkable finding means that Maidstone Museum no longer has the only human mummy in Kent, but the only two human mummies in the region. Additional research and conservation will be undertaken in order to respect and care for the baby as a person, maintaining the highest standards of ethical responsibility for the preservation of human remains.
Also scanned during the visit to KIMS Hospital was an ancient Egyptian Ram’s Horn plugged with mummy linen. Following the CT scan, the horn was found to be filled with contemporary items from the Victorian (or later) era, including a chain/necklace, and buttons. The reason for this remains a mystery, and further research will be undertaken as to why this might have been used as a form of container.
On-going investigations into the life and conservation of Ta-Kush is set to be conducted over the course of the next few months with Liverpool John Moores University analysing the scans and creating a facial reconstruction. Thanks to the HLF funding, and with support from the Maidstone Museums’ Foundation, the Egyptology Department at the British Museum, the Petrie Museum at University College London, Western Ontario University and the Egypt Exploration Society, this research will uncover the stories behind the scanned human and animal remains ready for the redisplay of the wider Ancient Egyptian and Greek World collections, to be unveiled in summer 2017.