While Marc was visiting us from the Getty to carry out XRF on our mummy Demetrios, we decided to give Marc a sample of the linen used to wrap him, to perform radiocarbon dating (C14). A small sample (2-5mg) of the linen was taken near the feet, where there was already previous damage.
Marc will send this sample to the NSF Arizona AMS Facility at The University of Arizona. This will give us a ballpark date of how old the linens are, and by association, how old the mummy may be. While we know stylistically it is between 30 B.C. and 395 A.D., we may be able to get a narrower date with C14 dating. We also wanted to find out more about the mummy itself. Is Demetrios really a man? Across the linens, in gilding just under his name is written 89 years. Does that mean he was 89 years old when he died? What did he die of? Is there anything else wrapped up with him in the linens? In order to answer some of these questions, we decided to have Demetrios CT scanned. CT scanning, or computed tomography, is another non-destructive technique that allows us to see beyond the linen wrappings, without having to un-wrap Demetrios. A three-dimensional image is generated using X-rays. This was carried out at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset New York.
Before Demetrios could travel to Long Island, we needed to make sure he was stable enough to withstand the truck ride. One of our art handlers, Jason, constructed a custom made box with foam padding so that Demetrios wouldn’t shift in transit. We used a special art packing and shipping company, Marshall Fine Arts, to transport Demetrios to the hospital. Their tucks are climate controlled and have “air ride” suspension to give the mummy a nice, smooth, cool ride. This was also an opportunity for us to give Demetrios a “trial run” to see if any damage will occur during transit. While we take every possible precaution to avoid damage to our objects, sometimes there are unforeseen problems. Demetrios hasn’t left the BM since he arrived in 1911, and while he was only going to Long Island for this trip, he will be traveling to 11 different museums across the US as part of the exhibition To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum. If any problems occur during this quick trip, we can address them before he goes out on the road for over 3 years of travel. Check back next week to read about our adventures in CT scanning!
Tina March is an assistant conservator of objects at the Brooklyn Museum where she has been since receiving her M.A. in Conservation from Buffalo State College in 2001. She has a B.A. in Art Conservation from the University of Delaware. Previous internships include The Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim Museum and The National Museum of the American Indian.