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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
'Mummy's organ' removed from jar

UK scientists have opened a jar thought to contain a preserved internal organ of an Egyptian mummy more than 3,000 years old.

Jar, Uni Birmingham
Few such containers have survived with their contents intact

Archaeologists at Birmingham University retrieved tough, leathery material, which looked like dried meat, from the container and sent it to a nearby hospital for analysis.

Experts say hieroglyphics on the Canopic jar - a type of covered urn - suggest the remains were from somebody called Puia, who died during the New Kingdom period around 1,400 BC.

Mummification in ancient Egypt often involved the removal and dehydration of internal organs.

These were then returned to the body after it had undergone a similar process of preservation or stored in the burial chamber in jars.

Dr Gillian Shepherd, curator of Birmingham's Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity Museum, said it was not yet clear what was in the vessel.

She told BBC News Online: "It ought to be intestines, according to the hieroglyphs on the jar itself, but the Egyptians didn't always get it right and it might also be liver or lungs.

"The pathological analysis will be able to tell us exactly what it is and hopefully some of the diseases or physiological conditions that this individual had."

Jar, Uni Birmingham
The jar has lost its lid

The jar was subjected to a 3D scan before the contents were removed.

Dr Swarup Chavda, a consultant neuro-radiologist based at the city's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said the results had been encouraging.

He said: "It does look like an organ in terms of the fact that it's a different density to the rest of the material in the jar.

"We can also look at the jar in 3D which allows us to visualise the inside and outside of it without having to destroy it."

Records as to how the terracotta jar came to be at the University are hazy.

Dr Shepherd said although many such jars had survived, few still had their original contents.

"We've lost the lid of the jar, which should have been in the shape of a falcon's head, but there was clearly original linen sticking out of it which had been slightly disturbed but obviously most of the contents were still in there," she said.

The scientists expect to know more in a week's time.




SEE ALSO:
Wooden coffin yields ancient mummy
31 Mar 03  |  Science/Nature
Mummies found in Outer Hebrides
17 Mar 03  |  Scotland


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