White wrapped Mummies have long been the subject of horror stories and movies. But this wood coffin with 2,500-year-old mummified remains of a 14-year-old Egyptian boy, is anything but scary. The coffin was recently pried open to get the mummy ready for a US tour.
Four scientists at Chicago's Field Museum used clamps and pieces of metal to create a cradle to lift the fragile lid of the mummy's coffin. With blue surgical gloves on, they carefully walked the contraption to a table in a humidity-controlled lab at the museum.
Scientists will now start conservation work on the mummy of Minirdis, the son of a stolist priest. The mummy needs to be stabilized so it can travel in the upcoming exhibit, "Mummies: Images of the Afterlife," set to premier next September at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The Field Museum has had the mummy since the 1920s, part of a collection of 30 complete human mummies from Egypt.
"There's always a risk of damage," said scientist J.P. Brown, who did the work in a lab filled with plastic-covered examination tables set behind a large window to let schoolchildren watch his daily work. "So we like to handle these things as little as possible."
There will be repairs made to the mummy after CT scans let scientists see inside the coffin before opening it. The boy's feet were detached and partially unwrapped with his toes sticking out. His shroud and mask were torn and twisted sideways.
Brown didn't worry that the mummy would scatter to dust when opened - something often shown in movies.
"The last bit of `Indiana Jones' and all that," Brown explained before opening the coffin. "That's not going to happen. The fascinating thing about any mummy is that it's survived as long as it has," Brown said. "They're actually amazingly fragile."