If we were to write a film, ‘Carry on Scanning’ would have to be the strapline. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, last night we embarked on a ‘scan-a-thon’ of 26 animal mummies from the collections at Manchester Museum and Norwich Castle Museum. 26 might not sound a lot, but factor in the logistics of unpacking and repacking the mummies, moving between the X-ray room and the CT scanner, and actually acquiring the images, each mummy needs a fair amount of time to ensure everything is done efficiently and safely. Working to a tight deadline meant that we had a window of two hours to achieve all this – no easy task!
The mummies scanned last night included birds, crocodiles, cats and dogs, many of which had been X-rayed in 2001, but none of which had been CT scanned. We also had the opportunity to scan our first ceramic bird pot which produced some interesting results. We scanned bones from Ernest, our baboon, which we need for comparative purposes. The more mummies we see, the more candidates we find for our object list for the exhibition!
In addition to last night’s session, our experimental mummies were also studied yesterday. We are trying to repeat the imaging at regular intervals so we can assess the dehydration process and chart the preservation of the birds over time. All indications are that they are incredibly stable considering the basic mummification technique they received and the fact they have been produced in a cold, humid Manchester lab and not the arid deserts of Egypt!
As always, we are extremely grateful to Prof. Judith Adams, Consultant Radiologist at the Central Manchester NHS Trust, for her endless support of the study of mummy, both ancient and modern. The radiographers at the MRI and the Children’s Hospital where the scanning takes place are always keen to sign up to help. We discovered last night that they had a prize draw to find out who would be helping out and apparently there is a growing list of names of people who would like to help for upcoming sessions. It’s nice for us to know that the staff are willing to participate at the end of a long shift! We also couldn’t work without the endless support of the museums and their staff – particularly Campbell and Sam from Manchester Museum and Faye and Martha from Norwich Castle.