How know-how is revolutionising our understanding of historical 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 peculiar historical Egyptians – into sharper focus

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2 November 2022

How know-how is revolutionising our understanding of historical Egypt

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, effective clothes – and that well-known gold face masks. Every part was in step with a royal burial from probably the most affluent interval in historical Egyptian historical past. Or nearly all the things, 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 metallic the Egyptians didn’t be taught to smelt till centuries after Tutankhamun’s dying. 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 comprises 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 important is the best way it was made – via an X-ray evaluation carried out with out damaging the dagger. It’s indicative of a brand new method to Egyptology that emphasises preservation over destruction. Whether or not it’s finding out mummies with out unwrapping them or producing digital landscapes as they existed millennia in the past, we will now make discoveries Carter may have barely dreamed about whereas leaving artefacts intact for future generations.

Scanning a mummy is nothing new: X-rays had been found in 1895, and some years later, in 1903, Carter carried the …

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