KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology

The Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank Project

Radiograph of an intentionally mummified hawk from ancient Egypt. Copyright - The  Manchester Museum, University of Manchester / Central Manchester University  Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Radiograph of an intentionally mummified hawk from ancient Egypt. Copyright - The Manchester Museum, University of Manchester / Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Background

The study of mummified animals from ancient Egypt has often been perceived as being of lesser importance than the study of the human dead; however, this project aims to promote the study of faunal material of this kind by uncovering information relating to these creatures and the ancient culture that preserved them.

Established in June 2010, the Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank Project is a centralised database and image bank for mummified animal material from museums in the UK and overseas. The concept, developed to contribute to the existing International Ancient Egyptian Mummy Tissue Bank, will combine known records with new research to broaden current knowledge and increase understanding.

Research carried out at the KNH Centre has focused on the application of non-invasive techniques to obtain the maximum amount of information without compromising the integrity of the mummies. However, in some cases we have been able to obtain small samples from damaged areas, which have been subjected to preliminary non-invasive microscopic imaging. These samples are stored in the Tissue Bank facility under environmentally controlled conditions.

Radiograph of  a modern naturally mummified domestic cat. Copyright - Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales, Cardiff / Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS  Foundation Trust.

Radiograph of a modern naturally mummified domestic cat. Copyright - Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales, Cardiff / Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Project Aims

The project aims to increase awareness of ancient Egyptian faunal remains which, to date, represent an understudied group of material. Throughout this journey, it has become clear that many museums have little knowledge of these artefacts, where they came from and how they can be used to inform us about the past. We believe that initial investigations into this material should be non-invasive, with invasive and minimally destructive techniques being employed only when research questions cannot be answered using alternative techniques.

The Bio Bank as a Research Resource

The Bio Bank acts as a resource for researchers wishing to work on mummified animal material whilst reducing the need for the specimens themselves to be moved from their home institution. In this way, the Bio Bank acts as a conservation measure, helping to preserve the mummies for future generations whilst allowing the opportunity for further study using modern biomedical techniques.

Anyone wishing to discuss this research or offer support should contact Dr. Lidija McKnight (lidija.mcknight@manchester.ac.uk) for further information on how to do so.

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