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Egyptian Head

From Canterbury Museums and Galleries

An account of the paleoradiological investigation of the Canterbury Museums and Galleries ancient mummified Egyptian head. 

James Elliott - Updated July 2022

What is the project?

The project is a collaboration between James Elliott (website author) and Dana Goodburn-Brown (archaeological conservator) and museum manager Craig Bowen. The ancient Egyptian mummified head kept at Canterbury Museums and Galleries has a murky past, being brought back from Egypt as a souvenir in the 19th Century. The head - which is lacking its wrappings and its body - was eventially given to the museum in a glass case. Following successful funding, the head has undergone conservation and investigation to answer some of the many questions surrounding the deceased individual. Was this person male or female? Young or old? How were they mummified? 

The head was initially x-rayed at Canterbury Christ Church University in November 2020 and subsequently a computed tomography (CT) scan was performed at Maidstone Nuclear Medicine Department in November 2021. This project is on-going and the imaging is yet to be formally analysed, although a multi-institution team are contributing to the reconstruction of this mysterious individual. 


This project page showcases a variety of photos and videos related to the head, more information can be found within the original blog. A short video documentary has been created to demonstrate the x-ray imaging and initial interpretation. In addition to this, a radio interview with BBC Radio Kent about the x-ray process can be found below.   


What has been done already?

So far we have taken x-rays, photographs and a CT scan of the head

What is known so far?

Initial results strongly suggest that the head belongs to an adult female and that packing material may be present within the eyes (similar to Ta Kush). Also, there appears to be a lack of brain remnants or resin within the skull (traditionally used for preservation). The CT scan provided superb detail for the internal contents of the head. For instance, there appears to be a tube of some sort within the spinal canal and the left nostril. Upon close inspection of the x-rays, some of the tubing were visible. Whether the tubing is historic (Victorian) or ancient (Egyptian) is unknown. 


What next?​

The plan is to investigate the CT scan and provide a detailed account of pathology, trauma and dental status. It may also be possible to ascertain the route for brain removal. A facial reconstruction is planned so that the head may be presented in The Beaney Museum. Other tests including ancient DNA and carbon dating are both potential avenues of scientific investigation. Eventually the results will be disseminated in an academic journal and shared with the public. 

CT reconstructions created with RadiAnt DICOM viewer

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X-rays and the Egyptian headBBC Radio Kent
00:00 / 07:21
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