Scientist opens mummy coffin, finds more than dust The mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy and his burial mask lie in his opened coffin at the Field Museum. His exposed toes appear at left (AP photos)
Scientist opens mummy coffin, finds more than dust
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Once the lid was off the wood coffin holding the 2,500-year-old mummified remains of a 14-year-old Egyptian boy, scientist J.P. Brown could relax.

The conservator at Chicago's Field Museum and three other scientists had just used clamps and pieces of metal to create a cradle to raise the fragile lid. They wore blue surgical gloves, and slowly lifted the contraption containing the coffin lid. Then they carefully walked it to a table in a humidity-controlled lab at the museum.

"Sweet!" Brown said, after helping set the lid down. He later added: "Oh yeah, I was nervous."

The well-planned routine came as scientists started conservation work on the mummy of Minirdis, the son of a priest. The mummy needs to be stabilized so it can travel. It will appear in the upcoming exhibit, "Mummies: Images of the Afterlife," which is expected to premier next September at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The Field Museum has had the mummy since the 1920s. That's when the institution received it from the Chicago Historical Society. It's part of the museum's collection of 30 complete human mummies from Egypt.

"There's always a risk of damage," said Brown. He did the work in a lab filled with plastic-covered examination tables set behind a large window to let schoolchildren watch his daily work. "So we like to handle these things as little as possible."

Inside the coffin, there was expected damage. CT scans, which make X-ray images that allow scientists to see inside the coffin before opening it, showed the boy's feet were detached and partially unwrapped with his toes sticking out. His shroud and mask were torn and twisted sideways. Those will be repaired.

Brown didn't worry that the mummy would scatter to dust when opened something common in the movies. Pieces of the coffin had previously gone missing, exposing the mummy to the elements.

"The last bit of 'Indiana Jones' and all that," Brown explained before opening the coffin. "That's not going to happen."

And it didn't.

Walking around the opened coffin, Brown pointed and explained the significance of a certain marking. If Minirdis had lived, he would have been a priest like his father, Brown said. Scientists don't know why he died so young.

Critical thinking challenge: Why did the Field Museum bother with opening the mummy before shipping it to Los Angeles?

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COMMENTS (164)
  • Danielle119
    12/12/2014 - 11:19 a.m.

    I think it would be amazing to find a mummy. It would be like finding a new part of our some what lost history. and the fact that the body is so young and so much intact was a great accomplishment and whats even more amazing is that the body didn't redoes to dust when they opened up the mummy's coffin.

  • EthanI-5
    12/12/2014 - 11:55 a.m.

    When looking in a mummy tomb they found a mummify boy in the coffin. They deiced to preserve him and take him to a museum. Also scholastic wants to do a story on this. My opinion on this is it is cool they found a mummy.

  • ma2000dragonball
    12/12/2014 - 01:01 p.m.

    It would be awesome to find a mummy like that that because, that is what I love about history, even if you know the knowledge of it, there are so many things to find.

  • ce2001sparkle
    12/12/2014 - 01:03 p.m.

    They wanted to make sure the mummy was in good condition, like any other historical fact. They wanted to make sure it was good to ship.

  • ct2000green
    12/12/2014 - 01:03 p.m.

    Finding this mummy in as good condition as they did is pretty astonishing. Most mummy's start to fall to pieces after a hundred years or more, finding it still intact as they did was good luck and work on their teams part.

  • MS01bestfreind
    12/12/2014 - 01:15 p.m.

    I think it would be cool to find a mummy. Plus I heard you can get lots of money for finding it and taking I to the museum.

  • vinniep8
    12/12/2014 - 02:11 p.m.

    That mummy seems mysterious to have died so young. He was only 14 years old and he died. It could be a disease, or a body malfunction. I wonder if grave robbers have already been in his tomb because it was all torn up. It would be crazy to think that the last scene of Raiders Of The Lost Ark was going to happen. First of all, it was a movie which was fake, and second of all, it was the Ark Of The Covenant, not a mummies tomb. It would be cool if that happened though, but I don't think that their faces will melt or explode or get struck by streaks of fire.

  • f-pmatt
    12/12/2014 - 02:13 p.m.

    This article is about how scientist J.P. Brown opened up a 2,500 year old mummified 14 year boy. I think that this will come in handy for future findings because now we know that there is not just mummified animals or humans but young children. At I first I thought that when somebody opens up an old coffin it was just in the movies that the person turns to dust. But now I know it actually happens. I predict that scientist will find more coffins with mummified children in them instead of older kings and queens in them. If scientist do find more old coffins then I hope that kids will be in them because, it shows that kids can the responsibility of an adult.

  • meganw2738
    12/12/2014 - 03:37 p.m.

    I don't really believe in mummy's but I think it would be cool to find one. This was a really cool story. One thing I think is weird is if you actually found one and if they were real and it was alive why would you even go? You would probably die so I would never go and look for a mummy.

  • PageO-mai
    12/12/2014 - 03:42 p.m.

    I think this is amazing! 14 year-old boy was wrapped and now opened! Plus it's cool how he knew that it wouldn't fall into dust when he opened the the mummy! How did they know it was a boy? He was nervous and I wouldn't blame him because I would be to! Who wouldn't! I think this seems REALLY cool!

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