A team of scientists at Northwestern University are studying an ancient Egyptian mummy from the Roman era – and they’re using a groundbreaking technique that’s never been tried before. The mummified remains belong to a five-year-old girl who died 1,800 years ago. And, among other things, the researchers want to find out how the child died.
At the time the girl was alive, Egyptians, at least those of high birth, had been mummifying their dead for centuries. However, the way they did so during the Roman imperial era, specifically from about the 1st to the 3rd century A.D., had its own particular characteristics. The most striking of those was the practice of inserting a board with a painted likeness of the deceased over their face. But as we’ve said, the broader practice far predated this.
The earliest examples of Egyptian mummification that we know about date back about 4,800 years. But why did it happen at all? Well, the motivation for the practice was a religious belief in the idea that it would lead to a better life after death. As well as mummifying bodies, the Egyptians built incredibly elaborate tombs. And this culminated in the Great Pyramids of Giza, which were burial places for pharaohs.