When science mixes with archaeology ...

Submitted on 19/06/2020
Momie de chat ©Inrap

In 2017, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes makes an astonishing discovery about its 2500-year-old Egyptian cat mummy, which has been carefully preserved in the collections since 1923. This discovery will fuel an international research collaboration, one of the results of which can be seen at the Museum of Fine Arts.

A study conducted in Manchester on nearly 800 animal mummies from ancient Egypt revealed that in nearly a third of the cases the mummies were empty. So Odile Hays, in charge of archaeology and Egyptology at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes, decided to have X-rays taken of the cat mummy. The X-rays will reveal that it is neither empty nor occupied by the presence of a cat but has hind and lower limbs of at least three felines. Ancient swindle or discovery of countless ways of making animal mummies? The experts do not yet pronounce themselves, but a worldwide study constituting a corpus of imagery is in progress.

This discovery integrates a multidisciplinary collaboration within the framework of the French-Quebec ANR project INTROSPECT and goes further thanks to methods of interactive digital introspection.
The associated partners - including Inrap, CREAAH, the companies Image ET/BCRX/CDA'Indus and at IRISA, Valérie Gouranton (associate professor INSA) and Ronan Gaugne (research engineer University of Rennes 1) members of the Hybrid team - will focus their research on methods that combine, on the one hand, computed tomography and, on the other hand, 3D visualization technologies, such as Virtual Reality, tangible interactions and 3D printing.

Computed tomography allows a systematic recording of the densities of the materials that make up archaeological objects and a 3D reconstruction. This research work has allowed, thanks to a CT scan of the mummy, the identification of the hind and lower limbs of at least three felines but also of a ball of string in the head of the mummy.
To visualize the inside of the mummy, the scientists reconstructed the mummy in an exceptional life-size 3D print and proposed different tools for visualization and manipulation in virtual and augmented reality of this digital print.

This cat mummy and its 3D model are exhibited at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes. These devices, at the border of archaeological disciplines and digital imaging, enhance research work but also promise to be very promising for the knowledge and development of archaeological heritage.
As archaeological remains are fragile witnesses to be analyzed, interpreted, preserved and valorized, the innovative digital approaches developed here make it possible to provide information on the internal nature of the remains in a non-destructive way...

The cat's mummy and its 3D model are to be discovered at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes.

Découvrez "le Mag de la Science sur Science & Vie TV" - diffusé le 11 juin 2020

Découvrez sur la chaîne Youtube "C'est une autre histoire" - diffusé le 17 juin 2020

See the whole of our press review