lid of 2,600 year old mummy

Bringing back the colour to Egyptian coffin

15 August 2019
Technology enables detailed replica
Mummy enthusiasts at the University of Sydney have revealed plans to digitally re-colour a 2,600-year-old Egyptian coffin.

The re-colourisation of a 2,600 year old coffin will give visitors to the Chau Chak Wing Museum a vivid picture of the colours and hieroglyphics used to decorate wooden coffins in 7th century BC Egypt.

The digital model of the coffin of Mer-Neith-it-es will feature in the dedicated Mummy Room at the new museum, due to open next year. Its creation is part of the Mummy Project, an initiative begun in 2016 to closely examine the contents of the Nicholson Museum’s three Egyptian coffins and four mummies. Twenty-five researchers from disciplines ranging from Egyptology to radiology are taking part in the project, which last year revealed 2,600 year old mummified remains inside the wooden coffin for a woman named Mer-Neith-it-es. 

“This coffin would have once been vibrantly decorated but its markings are long faded and indistinct,” says Nicholson Museum senior curator Dr James Fraser. “In a world first, we’re using the best contemporary technology to get the most complete understanding possible of the coffin’s original markings.

“Vibrational spectroscopy, (used to identify the chemical composition of materials), will help us determine the colours used to paint the coffin and what was used to make the coloured pigments. Scientific illustrators will use these findings to create a digital replica, one of the most detailed of an Egyptian coffin ever produced."

We're using the best contemporary technology to get the most complete understanding possible of the coffin’s original markings.
Dr James Fraser

Plans to digitally re-colourise the coffin were announced at a symposium for the research team behind the Mummy Project on 25 July.

Details of the excavated remains of Mer-Neith-it-es were also revealed at the symposium including over 7,000 beads from an intricately designed beaded shroud, as well as linen, bandages, and the mixed-up human remains from the skeleton of an adult – probably Mer-Neith-it-es herself.

Mummy Project collaborators include researchers from Sydney University Museums, the Vibrational Spectroscopy Node of Sydney Analytical (a University of Sydney Core Research Facility), the British Museum, Macquarie Medical Imaging, Westmead Hospital, Macquarie University, the University of Newcastle and ANSTO.

 A crowdfunding initiative has been launched to support the Mummy Project. 

Related articles: