Science helps Chiddingstone reveal secret of 3000 year old coffin

A coffin lid at Chiddingstone Castle has played an important part in discovering how new digital scanning techniques can reveal the names written on papyrus which had previously only been possible by destroying the Ancient Egyptians treasures which contained the hidden hieroglyphics.

The Egyptian Collection at Chiddingstone Castle Museum has long captivated visitors who come to see the many unique and rare objects on display such as a red porphyry head of a queen from the Ptolemaic Period, an outstanding collection of Shabti figures which were placed inside tombs as workers for the afterlife, a 5000 year old funerary boat, and a fantastic collection of drink and food vessels ranging from the Predynastic Period to the New Kingdom.

One of the highlights of visiting the Ancient Egyptian collection at the castle is a chance to stand in front of the exhibition case containing the sarcophagus which once contained a 3000 year old Egyptian mummy whose name has always remained a secret until now.

The name revealed on the footplate of the sarcophagus by the teams of British researchers from University College London and the University of Manchester along with collaborators in the United States was ‘Irethoreru’. The name means ‘The eye of the Horus is against them’ and is thought to date from between 664 BC and 30 AD.

Curator of the collection, Maria Esain said, ‘Thanks to the scanning technique developed, digital imaging technology using light of various frequencies, was used to read the name of the mummy inside the sarcophagus which had been written on invisible hieroglyphics painted on scraps of papyrus used to make the case for the mummified body.

‘By determining the name written in hieroglyphics on the ‘foot’ of the coffin then we would be enabling him to live forever as there is a saying from Ancient Egyptian times that goes: To speak a man’s name is to restore him to eternal life.’

With the help of different imaging and processing methods, the UCL team were also able to find two figures of, what appears to be seated goddesses on either side of the central inscription.

The researchers are hoping the technique can now be able elsewhere to read papyrus without having to destroy objects.

Chiddingstone Castle will reopen from Friday 30 March to Wednesday 31 October 2018 and is open Monday to Wednesday between 11 am and 5 pm.

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