By: April Carson
After years of languishing in storage and being incorrectly identified as a hawk, an ancient Egyptian bird mummy is finally receiving the recognition it deserves thanks to digital scanning. Archaeologists have been astonished to discover that the mummy was a falcon, as evidenced by its signature red beak.
After extensive research, scientists discovered that the 1,500-year-old remains were not of a hawk but rather of a sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopica). This wading bird features unique stilt-like legs and an elongated curved beak - which was commonly sacrificed to Thoth by ancient Egyptians; the god of the moon, wisdom, knowledge, and writing.
The peculiar discovery was made possible thanks to the use of modern digital scanning techniques, allowing scientists to finally identify and analyze features that were not visible to the naked eye. Through microscopic analysis, it became apparent that the mummy had been wrapped in a traditional linen cloth and several layers of feathers.
When exploring the source of Cornell University's mummy, Barsody initially guessed that it had been from an 1884 freight shipment containing Penpi, a Theban scribe. Nevertheless, after conducting more investigations she realized that there were no other Egyptian relics sent with Penpi. This indicates that the university has no documented history of when the mummy was added to its collection.
The discovery of the mummy as a sacrificial bird confirms the idea that Ancient Egyptians had multiple methods for honoring their deceased. It is also further proof that mummification was not exclusively done on humans but instead could have been performed on animals as well.
Barsody is currently certain that the mummy had been part of John Randolph's 1930 donation to Cornell, yet she is still actively attempting to uncover its true source. As an employee in the Center for Technology Licensing at Cornell and a student majoring in Archaeology, her interest grew as she discovered ways technology could help unravel this puzzle. With determination and creativity, Barsody now seeks to discover what secrets lie within the mystery of this long-forgotten relic. As Barsody works to unlock the secrets of this Ancient Egyptian mummy, she is sure to find answers to questions about the past that had been previously unknown.
Frederic Gleach, a senior lecturer and curator of Cornell's Anthropology Collections, joined forces with her to transport the mummy - weighing merely 2 pounds (942 grams) - to the College of Veterinary Medicine. With its help, they were able to prove that it was an avian mummy after undergoing a CT scan.
The mummy was believed to have been a sacrifice for the goddess Isis, an Ancient Egyptian deity. In terms of its age, it is estimated to be between 2,300 and 2,500 years old.
Subsequently, Vanya Rohwer, the head curator of Birds and Mammals from the Cornell Museum of Vertebrates scrutinized their finding and identified it as an ibis. This wasn't unexpected since breeding thousands of ibises was a common practice in Egypt because they were often used as offerings.
The researchers found themselves perplexed by this particular mummy due to how it had been crafted by the Ancient Egyptians. Upon looking at its CT scan, they were puzzled as to how the bird was even folded into its current form. Through an in-depth analysis of the museum's specimens and skeletal structures, they finally uncovered that the ibis' head had been twisted backward and its chest hollowed out – something not commonly done during bird mummification.
Additionally, its wings had been carefully tucked in and sealed with resin, while the feet were bound together like a traditional mummy – all of which are indications of a sacrificial offering.
Revered as far back as Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the ibis bird was a source of fascination for many civilizations. Famous enough to inspire ancient gods like Thoth - whose hybridized human-bird form is now iconic in Egyptian mythology - millions have been found in necropolises throughout Africa, according to research published by Plos One.
At this moment, the team at Barsody is collaborating with Jack Defay, a Cornell electrical and computer engineering student, to scan the mummy to create an exact 3D replica of the bird. This will allow everyone to access the replica, which can be used in classrooms and museums around the world.
This remarkable discovery serves as an incredible reminder of how much we still have to learn about ancient civilizations – their practices, traditions, and beliefs. Our team feels privileged to be part of this project, bringing to life a specimen that has been hidden away for thousands of years.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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