“Paint the Eyes Softer” Mummy Experiment Makes Headlines Around the World

The intact portrait mummy now on view at the Block has traveled far and wide on her journey to the exhibition “Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt” on view at the Block Museum from January 13 through April 22, 2018. This fall, the ancient artifact became the site of a groundbreaking new study that brought together researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering, the Feinberg School of Medicine, the Art Institute of Chicago, and more.  As part of a comprehensive scientific investigation, the mummy traveled from Evanston to Argonne National Laboratory for an all-day X-ray scattering experiment.

This was the first study of its kind performed on a human mummy and the story made front-page news around the world.  While we were all excited about the potential findings of this interdisiplinary research – we were unprepared for the extent to which the story would capture national imagination.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our undergraduate students to work at understanding the whole object that is this girl mummy. Today’s powerful analytical tools allow us to nondestructively do the archaeology scientists couldn’t do 100 years ago,”said Marc Walton, Research Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering

Patrick O’Connell of the Chicago Tribune shadowed Block curators and Northwestern researchers during their 24-hour experiment at the Argonne Laboratory. The story of the mummy project appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on November 28, 2017.  News if the innovative experiment gained rapid press interest and soon after the Tribune story, articles appeared in newspapers across the globe including Time Magazine, BBC News, The Hindu and more.  Watch the national news coverage and check out some of the highlights below:


Chicago Tribune: Researchers unraveling mummy mysteries with help from powerful Argonne X-ray
“The high-powered beams of the Argonne machine will give researchers molecular information about what is inside the mummy, including the girl’s bones, burial materials and what has become of her remains.”

BBC News: Egyptian mummy’s secrets revealed at hi-tech laboratory

PBS NewsHour: Thanks to a particle accelerator, we can see inside this ancient mummy

Forbes: Particle Accelerator Peers Inside Ancient Girl Mummy

Newsweek: Archaeologists send an Ancient Egyptian Mummy Through an Imaging Scanner—Here’s What they Saw 

Associated Press: Researchers use advanced technology to study child mummy

Time Magazine: Scientists Are Using a Particle Accelerator to Unwrap a Mummy’s Secrets

Archaeology: Roman-Period Egyptian Mummy Analyzed

The Hindu: Say Hello to the Mysterious Mummy Girl

US News and Wold Report: Researchers Use Advanced Technology to Study Child Mummy

Daily Mail: First X-ray scattering experiment on a human mummy

Economic Times: Mysterious mummy girl enters US university class 

Popular Archaeology: First-of-its-kind mummy study reveals clues to girl’s story

USA Today: Unwrapping mummy mysteries goes high-tech


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