Museum Finds 2500-Year-Old Mummy in a Sarcophagus Marked 'Empty'

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iStock

Nearly 160 years ago, the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney acquired the sarcophagus of the Egyptian priestess Mer-Neith-it-es. But it wasn't until last year that researchers realized her remains came with it.

The Independent reports that one of the university's early founders, Sir Charles Nicholson, purchased the casket for the museum's fledging Egyptian collection around 1860. Hieroglyphs marking the outside of the sarcophagus indicated that it belonged to Mer-Neith-it-es, a high priestess who served in the temple of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet around 600 BCE. But the mummy itself was apparently missing: A 1948 handbook listed the coffin as 'empty' and the museum database reported it containing only "mixed debris."

Researchers didn't question its status until June of last year, when they came upon a surprising discovery after opening the sarcophagus for the first time since it arrived at the museum. Inside they found human bones that had avoided detection for more than a century and a half.

The 2500-year-old mummy, which is likely that of Mer-Neith-it-es, isn't fully intact. Tomb raiders got to the coffin before the museum did, leaving behind the fragmented remains of only 10 percent of her body, along with some bandages and more than 7000 beads from a funeral shawl.

Despite its rough appearance, the mummy could provide researchers with invaluable insights into Egyptian life in 600 BCE, the last era when ancient Egypt was ruled by native Egyptians. Further analysis of her bones may reveal details surrounding the priestess's health, eating habits, and any diseases she had while she was alive.

[h/t Independent]

Stonehenge Builders Likely Descended From Immigrants, Genetic Analysis Says

Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

There's a lot we don't know about Stonehenge, but until recently, the structure was thought to have been built by hunter-gatherers native to what's considered England today. A new study disputes that theory. As IFL Science reports, Stonehenge was likely the the work of Turkish people who migrated to Britain 6000 years ago and their descendants.

In the new report published in the journal Nature: Ecology & Evolution, scientists from London's Natural History Museum and University College London explain how they analyzed the DNA from the remains of dozens of people who lived in Britain between 8500 BCE and 2500 BCE.

The results contained fewer native British genes than expected: Researchers found that when the people whose bones they studied were alive, most of Britain's hunter-gatherer population had already been replaced by farmers from the Aegean region.

Roughly 6000 years ago, people from what is now Turkey traveled across Europe and settled in Britain. In addition to reshaping the British gene pool, the new group also introduced agriculture to the area. Archaeologists have long debated whether farming is something that was brought to Britain by a different culture or if native hunter-gatherers gradually adopted it on their own.

"The transition to farming marks one of the most important technological innovations in human evolution. It first appeared in Britain around 6000 years ago; prior to that people survived by hunting, fishing and gathering," study co-author Mark Thomas said in a press release. "Our study strongly supports the view that immigrant farmers introduced agriculture into Britain and largely replaced the indigenous hunter-gatherer populations."

That means Stonehenge, the first part of which was constructed around 3000 BCE, was likely the work of people who were culturally and genetically closer to ancient Aegeans than native Britons. But how they moved the 25-ton stones to their current location and for what purpose remains a mystery.

[h/t IFL Science]

An Ancient Shipwreck Has Been Turned Into an Underwater Museum Off the Coast of Greece

iStock.com/ultramarinfoto
iStock.com/ultramarinfoto

If you love ancient history and eerie, abandoned places, it might be time to break out the scuba diving gear and book a flight to Greece. As AFAR reports, the site of an ancient shipwreck near Alonissos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, has been turned into an underwater museum.

While underwater museums exist in Florida, Mexico, and Europe, those destinations are geared more toward art and sculpture lovers. In this case, divers will be swimming alongside a piece of history dating back to the late 5th century B.C.E. The wooden cargo ship, which sank for an unknown reason, disintegrated long ago. However, the seabed is still covered in thousands of amphoras (a kind of storage jar used in ancient Greece and Italy), which likely held wine.

Dubbed the Peristera shipwreck, the site was discovered in the early 1990s. It was named after the uninhabited island where it was discovered, but guided dives of the site leave from the harbor of Steni Valla on Alonissos, which is located in the Northern Sporades group of islands in the northwest Aegean Sea.

Peristera is the first shipwreck in Greece to be made accessible to the public, but it won’t be the last. As part of a program funded by the European Commission, the country also plans to open up three other shipwreck sites in the Pagasetic Gulf. The efforts are part of a push to promote eco-friendly tourism while also highlighting the country’s rich history.

“The goal is in the next two years to make the country’s shipwrecks visitable, but also to provide important information and raise awareness about underwater monuments, such as the Peristera wreck off Alonissos,” alternate culture minister Kostas Stratis said at an event, according to the Greek City Times.

Italy and Croatia are also expected to create their own underwater museums in the future via the same program, called BlueMed.

[h/t AFAR]

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