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Museum lets visitors 'digitally unwrap' an Egyptian mummy

Museum lets visitors 'digitally unwrap' an Egyptian mummy

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A new exhibition in Stockholm uses complex 3D models and a giant touchscreen to let visitors look deep inside an Egyptian sarcophagus. As BBC News reports, the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm recently used computed topography (CT) and photogrammetry on eight Egyptian sarcophagi in order to see inside the coffins. It's common to use CT scanning to aid in the analysis of such items, but the museum is turning one of the scans into an "virtual autopsy table" for a new exhibition.

The table is a giant touchscreen that allows visitors to 'digitally unwrap' the mummy of what's believed to be an ancient Egyptian priest. Visitors can use a slider to peel away layers of the coffin, from the solid sarcophagus through the cartonnage and down to the mummified remains. With each layer, visitors can use their hands to rotate and zoom in and out of the 3D models. The same CT scans also helped recreate an amulet found inside the coffin. The scans were used to 3D print a mould of a falcon amulet that was then cast in metal.

The team behind the exhibit, Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, has previously collaborated with other museums, using a CT scanner to unveil the secrets behind other ancient remains. However, the institute says the new exhibit is its most advanced yet. "CT scanning gives you information about the interior of the mummy but it doesn't give you any color or surface information," the research institute tells BBC News, "so we continued the process by doing laser scanning and photogrammetry and that process gave us information about the surface and textures and colors of the mummy and then we're taking all that data and putting it on the table and making it accessible for museum visitors."