Scientists study, repair defective mummy

  • 2000-07-27
  • Elina Cerpa
RIGA - The only mummy in Latvia, resides in the Foreign Art Museum in Riga and dates from about 100 B.C. However, the mummification had not been performed with due care, the Latvian Maritime Medicine Center experts have concluded upon examining the exhibit.

In the collection of Egyptian works are 180 objects. Three of them are mummies - one human, two cats and one fish. The human mummy in a wooden sarcophagus chronologically is from the time of the last Ptolemys and Greeks. The remain gives information about life in Ancient Egypt, the traditions of this particular human and his contemporaries. The mummy in the sarcophagus was brought to Riga by a sea officer and since 1952 the mummy has resided in the Foreign Art Museum

Shortly after its arrival, the mummy's textile inner structure showed a defect when a dark area on the mummy's head became bigger every day. So naturally, the mummy was in need of help. In 1992 experts from Moscow's lab for renovation of biological structure made repairs.

Last year the museum established connections with Egyptologists from the Louvre. Early this year the Museum of Foreign Arts became the site for further research work and renovation on the human mummy, and also, on the cats and fish.

To determine the condition of the mummy, scientists used roentgenology and computer topographics. The research united medicine and modern diagnostics with museum science and renovation.

Two Egyptologists from the Louvre will come to Riga in September to advise local scientists on the restoration and maintenance of the mummy. The costs of this visit will be paid by French Embassy in Latvia.

On July 8 for the first time in the Baltics, special x-ray devices were used to determine the age of the mummy. An expert from LMMC radiology department, Mara Epermane, led the research.

"But there is still a lot to do. It is the first time my colleagues and I have done research this way and the first time in the Baltic countries. I was very excited to use the modern equipment, which allowed us to study the mummy without disturbing the structure," said Epermane.

Study showed the mummified person had been 35 to 45 years old and stood from 1.55 to 1.65 meters tall. The sex of the mummy has not yet been established, as bone structure varies in both males and females.

No fractures or any anomalies caused by some disease had been found in the mummy's bones, therefore the cause of death so far has not been determined. The bones are in disorder, but it is a result of inadequate mummification procedures, the experts said.

The display is open Tuesdays through Sundays at 3 Pils Laukums.