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Mummy to get a new lease of life

Australian expert roped in to arrest the decay and weave a narrative around the life and death of the mummy in Telangana museum.

October 25, 2015 02:20 am | Updated 03:04 am IST - HYDERABAD:

The Egyptian Mummy preserved in Telangana State Museum in Hyderabad is decaying due to lack of maintenance. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

The Egyptian Mummy preserved in Telangana State Museum in Hyderabad is decaying due to lack of maintenance. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

The mummy at the State Museum will literally get a new lease of life in the next one year if the State Archaeology Department succeeds in its efforts.

The department has roped in Vinod Daniel, a noted expert in chemical conservation based in Australia, to arrest the decay and weave a narrative around the life and death of the mummy, said to be the daughter of a pharaoh. Mr. Daniel recently carried out a preliminary evaluation of the mummy without opening the case and said the decay was typical of mummies seen elsewhere.

“Humidity and oxygen cause the damage to mummies. To check them, the mummy will be shifted into a new case, similar to those that enclose the clothes of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi,” he said.

The oxygen-free case will maintain humidity at around 40 per cent and its interiors will be aired by nitrogen to check bacterial growth. It’s the concern of bacteria that deterred Mr. Daniel from opening the case.

“The standard protocol for conservation requires wearing healthy safety equipment. Though we can sample the air within the case, we cannot really be sure what bacteria lies within,” he said.

The State Archaeology Department has drawn flak in the past for maintenance of the mummy. Though experts had drawn up plans, the department could not conserve the mummy due to shortage of funds. Given that Mr. Daniel is doing a pro-bono job for the department, it is likely that the 2,351-year-old mummy will receive a new lease of life.

“Our aim is to ensure that the mummy does not decay further and is preserved here on and Mr. Daniel is helping us do this without costing anything,” said department’s Director Sunita Bhagwat.

Mr. Daniel, on his part, has mentioned a one-year timeframe for conserving the artefact. Besides conservation, he has also suggested researching the mummy to learn more about it in order to build a story that could be narrated to the visitors. Like three decades ago, when X-ray scan of the mummy revealed a missing tooth, this time Mr. Daniel believes a CT scan could throw light specifically on the death of the 16-year-old girl who never ceases to awe visitors in her wraps.

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