We interviewed the Spanish forensic and archaeologist Ricardo Ortega, who is responsible for the study of Egyptian mummies, which will be part of the Cairo Grand Museum.
Ricardo Ortega specializes in forensic medicine and studies mummies, which will become part of the El Gran Cairo Museum. In addition, he is responsible for training Egyptians. In this interview, he explained the details of treating mummies with scientific correctness.
Her mummy belonged to a low-class woman. She lived about 3,500 years ago. Her ancestors were Mediterranean and African. This is a sign of cultural integration in the Pharaoh era.
Professor Ortega explained: “In addition to the severe erosion of the desert caused by the mixing of teeth with food and causing abrasions, anemia and osteoporosis (deficiency of iron and calcium) can also be diagnosed.”
Ricardo Ortega has a degree in history and a master’s degree in archaeology in Madrid. Later, he obtained a Master of Science in Archaeology and Anthropology from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom. He is currently a professor of forensic anthropology at Isabel I University and works with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism.
In the past month of February, he and his team visited Egypt, where he conducted teaching and identification of the relics for the Egyptian government. The result of this visit was to work with the mummies of Mediterranean women.
How did you start working with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism?
Since August last year, I have been cooperating as an anthropology professor at the Ministry of Egyptian Antiquities and Tourism. They contacted us through social networks to identify and explain a series of remains from a few years ago. Little by little, I started to work with them regularly and remotely work to identify the Fayoum ruins and the remains of the mummies that will be exhibited in the “Great Museum of Cairo”.
The Egyptian government plans to open the museum this year and realizes that there is a lack of training in anthropology, so since last August, the ministry has invited me to be a professor of anthropology to train archaeologists, curators and ministries to explain humans. And treatment. remains.
What did you do during this trip?
During this trip to Cairo, we taught a course for the staff of the ministry. This is provided through their training center at the Sagara base in the Giza region of Cairo. The trip started on February 12th and ended on February 22nd. During this period, we trained archaeologists, curators and restorers dedicated to handling bones and human remains.
We received a very interesting video in which you opened the mummy. Is this a regular practice?
Mummies are part of the national and cultural heritage. After all, they are one of the symbols of the country and are closely related to tourism. Therefore, physical analysis (ie, opening) of the mummy’s bones will be refused in most cases. Although this is not always the case, mummies had not been so actively protected until a few years ago.
What do you mean, they don’t protect themselves so much?
“There are many mummies, and they are not so valuable that they are even used as firewood to burn in boilers.”
Until recently, the preservation and treatment of mummies were not regulated. For a long time, this problem has been a big problem.
The sale of mummies as souvenirs is allowed, and we are even committed to handling mummies cases issued by the Ministry of Health in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They are also crushed into powder, and this “mummy powder” is used as paint for painting. There are many things, but they are rarely taken seriously, so much so that they are even used as firewood to set boilers on fire. For this reason, a large number of mummies, usually belonging to the lower classes, have been lost.
“A health worker is helping a child heal the disease in Egypt. Thank you, the Ministry of Health gave him two mummies.”
Even a while ago, when they were working in a gallery in Malaga, they exhibited mummies with only skulls. The reason why Skeleton has come to the present is because a medical staff in Egypt is helping to cure the diseases of children and people with limited financial resources, and, thank you, the Ministry of Health gave him two mummies. The investigator said that he could not eat two mummies, and they chopped off their heads and solved the problem. These remains are those that arrived in Spain after passing through the United States.
Then why can you analyze it?
We do not ask for permission to “open” the mummy. It was provided to us by the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism. The mummies we analyzed in the video were partially destroyed and belonged to the lowest level. Therefore, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology believes that it may be interesting to analyze the remains of this bone.
Can you tell us about this process?
The analysis process we saw in the video lasted 3 hours. The two teams were involved and coordinated very well. The first thing we can see is how they removed the safety device holding the mummy. This thing has been removed from his grave and is particularly fragile, which is why it is wrapped in this device.
After the safety system was removed, we began to remove the mummy-filled fabric to maintain the original shape of the individual until we were finally able to reach the rest of the bones. The remaining fabrics are separated and kept in boxes because they are very fragile and will actually fall apart when we touch them.
After removing all the safety devices, clothing, and the two wooden boards that were part of the burial, we began to place and analyze the bones.
Separate bones according to whether they belong to the left or right side of the body. After that, they took a stand and began to check them in accordance with the law and hereditary human identification protocol. These remains are measured and analyzed until the person’s age, sex, height, ancestry, pathology and cause of death are obtained.
What do you know about this person?
The history of mummies can be traced back to approximately 3,200-3,500 years ago. Regarding the remains, we found that they belonged to a woman, and because of the marks on the pelvis, she was also a mother. We estimate that his age is 35-40 years old, which was already quite a high age at the time. He also belongs to the lower class.
We can infer this from the form of his funeral, because we can say it is “low quality” because his sarcophagus is based on two wooden slats, and the skin is made of mud and straw.
Similarly, because of the traces present in the bones, these traces are related to diseases related to periods of famine and malnutrition. We can define its ancestry as a mixture between the Mediterranean and North Africa, which is a very beautiful and common mixture in this region.
“The woman may suffer from iron deficiency anemia caused by malnutrition for a long time.”
Which brands can give you information about malnutrition?
For example, we observe the skull above the orbital orbit, and these holes appear in the upper area of the orbit of the skull orbital. The presence of these pores indicates that the person may have long-term iron deficiency anemia caused by malnutrition.
This woman also has hypoplasia of teeth. Tooth hypoplasia is a mark that appears on teeth with less enamel than normal areas. This fact is also related to malnutrition, stressful phases, or due to illness, which can make the individual’s physical condition poor during training. These were located on the teeth that were erupting at the time, so it brought us into the crisis phase of individuals around 9-11 years old.
Do you think this mummy will be displayed in the new museum in Cairo?
“Generally speaking, museums prefer to display mummies belonging to rich and influential people”
No, I don’t think this mummy will be displayed in the Cairo Grand Museum. They have other mummies, and they will be considered more spectacular. After all, this belongs to a lower class woman.
Museums generally prefer to display mummies belonging to rich and influential people because they are better preserved and their remains are more spectacular. The mummy we worked for the museum through radiology belonged to a royal woman, a priest and two aristocratic women.
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