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

Publish date:

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.

Next Up


ObamaCare medical device tax worse than you thought

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as ObamaCare, there has been great concern across the medical device industry about the medical device tax, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Regardless of presidential politics and party loyalties, the medical device excise tax must be repealed for the sake of our nation’s and state’s economy, if not our personal health.

Former science museum now home to Midwest's largest Scientology church

The controversial organization founded by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard outgrew its location on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis and opened its new mega-center to the public over the weekend. Critics denounce the worldwide movement as a hoax and cult, but followers say it's a legitimate religion and an "applied religious philosophy."