Mummy Shows Face After 3,000 Years At Segedunum

By Rachel Johnson | 30 November 2006
an x-ray photgraph of a skull from the front

Bakt Hor Nekht - rather well preserved for her age (3,000-years-old). © Tyne and Wear Museums

Visitors to the Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend will come face to face with an ancient Egyptian mummy this week, as a 3-dimensional digital image of her head is put on display at the Museum for the first time.

The mummy, known as Bakt Hor Nekht, has never been seen before; her intricately decorated coffin sealed out of respect and to preserve her remains. However, a CT scan carried out by Newcastle General Hospital this summer has now been used to create an accurate, detailed digital reconstruction of her head.

Gill Scott, Egyptologist for the Hancock Museum, which has loaned Bakt Hor Nekht to Segedunum, explained the significance of the model:

“Although we already have a forensic-style model of her as she would have appeared in real life, this 3 dimensional reconstruction will show how the mummification process has affected her. The CT footage provides us with fantastic computerised images of the mummy, but seeing the physical reconstruction of the head is quite an eerie experience.”

“It is possible to see her perfectly preserved pierced ears, as well as a vague outline of the false eyes which were placed over her real ones by the ancient Egyptian embalmers.”

an x-ray photograph showing a mummy in a coffin

Full x-ray image of the mummy showing hands down over the pelvis as well as amulets on the body. © Tyne and Wear Museums

“This model will help further our understanding of one of the world’s most intriguing ancient civilisations.”

Very little is known about Bakt Hor Nekht herself, whose coffin was bought at a local market in Egypt and brought to Britain in 1820. However, the footage from the CT scan had some revelations of its own. She was 5 ft tall and had a full set of teeth. Her bones show no signs of arthritis or bone disease, suggesting that she was aged between 21 and 35 when she died; and she is wrapped in elaborate cartonnage (fibres) indicating that she was most likely middle class.

The coffin and the digital model are both at Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum as part of the current Land of the Pharaohs exhibition, which chronicles everyday life in and death in Ancient Egypt; exploring themes such as farming, personal adornment religion and the afterlife.

There are a number of objects from the time when Egypt formed part of the Roman Empire, which have been loaned from the British Museum and the Oriental Museum at Durham. The exhibition also includes many Egyptian artefacts that were formerly displayed at the Hancock Museum, while the site is being redeveloped.

The digital head, created by Gateshead based visualisation and animation company Visual Impact, will be on show from Thursday 30 November.

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