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The Science Museum's mummy is about 1,000 years younger than they thought


When the Science Museum of Minnesota got its popular Egyptian mummy, they weren't really sure how old it was.

Now, after some advanced testing and scientific research, they have a better idea.

The latest analysis, which was completed this spring, found the mummy is more than 1,000 years younger than what the museum originally believed, a news release says.

The mummy actually dates back to the Greco-Roman period (that's the 1st century B.C. to 1st century A.D.). For some context: That's when Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus roamed the earth, and at that time, Egypt became a Roman province.

Before the testing, the museum thought the person died and was mummified during the 18th dynasty (that's 1550 B.C. to 1295 B.C.).

How'd they test the mummy?

To figure the actual age out, the museum recently collected samples from the mummy's rib bone and two kinds of linen wrappings. The samples were then sent to two different labs, which used carbon dating to figure out how long ago the individual was alive.

In carbon dating, scientists analyze how much carbon-14 is in the sample. Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope that occurs naturally in organic material – such as human remains.

And when an organism dies, carbon-14 decreases at a constant rate. So, researchers can measure the amount of it in a sample, and factor in its rate of decay, to figure out its age "with a reasonable level of accuracy," the release explains.

'Exciting new directions'

When the museum got the mummy in 1925, it knew little about its history. Now that the museum knows its age, it'll be able to give the mummy more accurate context.

"This opens up all sorts of new avenues for research and interpretation," Dr. Ed Fleming, curator for archaeology at the Science Museum, said in a news release. "Finally, we can definitively place him into time and interpret him according to the politics and society of ancient Egypt from when he lived.”

Fleming added that these tests are an "excellent example" of why the museum will continue to study items in its collection as scientific testing improves.

"Sometimes our assumptions prove to be wrong, but the new data can lead us in exciting new directions," Fleming said.

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