A 3,000 year old Egyptian mummy can “live forever” after scientists used scanning technology to reveal his name written invisibly on his sarcophagus.
The dessicated remains of the man formerly known as Irethoreru are held by Chiddington Castle in England, but his precise identity had always remained a mystery … until now.
His name, which means "The Eye of Horus is Against Them", and is thought to date from between 664 BC and 30 AD, was discovered thanks to a scanning technique developed by British researchers from University College London and the University of Manchester along with collaborators in the United States.
They were able to read hitherto invisible hieroglyphs painted on scraps of papyrus used to make the "cartonnage" case for the mummified body by shining light of various frequencies onto them.
Because wood is scarce in Egypt, the ancient Egyptians made mummy cases and mummy masks out of "cartonnage" … which is a kind of papier mâché made from papyrus and linen glued together.
The new technique was developed using fabricated scraps designed to mimic the "waste" ancient materials, including ancient shopping lists and tax returns, which were recycled into sarcophagi.
They were previously regarded as illegible, however, because the writing was obscured by the paste that holds the mummy case together.
Professor Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project said: "Because the waste papyrus was used to make prestige objects, they have been preserved.
"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"
Irethoreru’s name was discovered on a footplate of his coffin. Until now, researchers would have had to destroy the sarcophagus in order to read it.
Castle curator Maria Esain said: "There is a saying from Ancient Egyptian times: 'To speak a man’s name is to restore him to eternal life.' Therefore, if we were able to determine the name written in hieroglyphs on the ‘foot’ of the coffin then we would be enabling that person to live forever.”