How technology is revolutionising our understanding of ancient Egypt

A century on from the invention of Tutankhamun’s tomb, CT scans, 3D printers and digital actuality are bringing the world of the pharaohs – and bizarre historical Egyptians – into sharper focus


2 November 2022

Ula Šveikauskaitė

A CENTURY in the past this month, Howard Carter opened the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun. Inside, he discovered ornate jewelry, stunning furnishings, high-quality clothes – and that well-known gold face masks. The whole lot was consistent with a royal burial from essentially the most affluent interval in historical Egyptian historical past. Or virtually every little thing, as a result of hidden inside the mummy’s bindings, Carter found a dagger that appeared misplaced.

The issue wasn’t with its golden sheath. It was with its blade of gleaming iron – a steel the Egyptians didn’t study to smelt till centuries after Tutankhamun’s loss of life. Carter had a easy clarification. He assumed the dagger was imported, maybe from the traditional Hittite Empire in Anatolia, the place there was an early iron business. Not till 2016 was it confirmed that the iron originated from a lot additional afield, with the invention it accommodates the excessive ranges of nickel related to meteoric iron. For the Egyptians who wrapped the dagger near their king’s physique, it was a present from the gods.

What makes this discovering vital is the best way it was made – by an X-ray evaluation carried out with out damaging the dagger. It’s indicative of a brand new strategy to Egyptology that emphasises preservation over destruction. Whether or not it’s learning mummies with out unwrapping them or producing digital landscapes as they existed millennia in the past, we are able to now make discoveries Carter might have barely dreamed about whereas leaving artefacts intact for future generations.

Scanning a mummy is nothing new: X-rays have been found in 1895, and some years later, in 1903, Carter carried the 3300-year-old physique of Pharaoh Thutmose IV out of the Egyptian Museum in …

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