Secrets of the Ancients

“Because the waste papyrus was used to make prestige objects, they have been preserved for 2,000 years,” he said.

“And so these masks constitute one of the best libraries we have of waste papyrus that would otherwise have been thrown away so it includes information about these individual people about their everyday lives”

I’m going through a bit of an Ancient Egypt phase at the moment (see an earlier post on Assassin’s Creed Origins’ new educational Discovery mode). It’s kind of like getting a song stuck in your head, only I’m learning stuff rather than being driven slowly mad.

So, this story about a new technique which allows scientists to read previously obscured text on ancient Egyptian mummy cases immediately caught my eye. For the first time, we’re able to see what was written on the discarded scraps of papyrus used in sarcophagus construction. 

In my previous incarnation as a medievalist, I used to get very excited about book bindings…stay with me here. Because parchment and paper was so expensive, rather than throw out old documents, bookmakers would often use old scraps to bind their works. As a result, often the only evidence we have for certain medieval transactions and procedures are hidden in totally unrelated books. It’s like a treasure hunt. 

And this seems to be exactly what we’re seeing with this new mummy-scanning tech, only we’re finding out about stuff which happened two millennia ago. If there’s a chance we can find out what was on an ancient Egyptian’s shopping list, I will 100% be first in line to find out.  

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