CT scan of Egyptian mummy unlocks 2,500-year old secrets

A 2,500-year-old Egyptian mummy has become an Essex hospital’s oldest ever patient after she underwent a CT scan to give a fascinating insight into her life and death.

Lady Ta-Hathor was donated to Colchester Museum in 1871 but she is soon to be moved to a new home at Ipswich Museum as part of its new Egyptian Gallery.

Last night a visit to Colchester’s Oaks Hospital was on the cards with staff conducting a CT scan in a bid to reveal some of her secrets.

It is hoped the state-of-the-art technology will reveal the level of mummification the body received, whether there are still any internal organs and it may even establish how she died – currently thought to be as a result of natural causes.

The results of the scan will need expert analysis before their significance is known but staff at the museum yesterday spoke of their excitement about the project.

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Laura Hardisty, assistant marketing officer for Colchester and Ipswich Museums, said: “We don’t know much about her death at the moment, we think it was natural causes but of course we don’t know because we have not seen inside.

“The CT is great because it shows the skin and everything underneath and it’s so in-depth, whereas before we have just had the X-ray done in the 1970s that only showed the bones.

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“It could reveal anything – at the lower end of the scale it will show how much mummification there is so we will learn more from that, but there is always the thought that you will find something you can only dream about.”

Lady Ta-Hathor was donated by Colchester man George Errington who bought her for seven sovereigns from a cemetery in Luxor, Egypt having chartered a boat up the Nile in 1856.

She is of particular interest to the team at Colchester and Ipswich Museums because her sarcophagus, although “nothing special in the carving”, has been exquisitely painted.

Vanessa Bobby-Rose, radiology manager at the Oaks said: “CT Scanning is a non-invasive technique which will enable us to look inside Lady Ta-Hathor without the need to unwrap her. It gives us an opportunity to use modern technology to examine an object preserved by ancient technology.”

And Nick Barlow, the Colchester borough councillor for economic development, culture and tourism, said, “This is an exciting and possibly revealing project enabling us to complete further research into the mummy of Lady Ta-Hathor.

“As she completes her journey to Ipswich, the copy of the CT scan will join the mummy and sarcophagus on display in the new Egyptian gallery in Ipswich Museum for all our visitors to enjoy.

“This is a good example of the merged museum service providing a great opportunity to re-display exciting collection objects.”

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