Scientific discoveries

Using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry we have discovered what organ this canopic jar contained, despite not having the lid.

Canopic jars were used to house the internal organs of the deceased. Each jar was protected by a god who was shown on the jar lid, one of the four sons of Horus. Hapi (ape headed) for the lungs, Imsety (human headed) for the liver, Duamutef (jackal headed) for the stomach and Qebsenuef (falcon headed) for the intestines.

In 2014 the research on these 6000 year old jars led to world headlines as it was discovered that they contained a distinctive recipe of plant oil, bitumen and imported pine resin, the same recipe used on Egypt's earliest embalmed bodies (mummies) dated c4300BC. This discovery pushed back the beginnings of Egyptian mummification by 1700 years.

Embalming study ‘rewrites’ key chapter in Egyptian history

Science has also solved the mystery of the mummified toad in our collection.

The desiccated toad on display was given to the museum in 1952. An accompanying letter says that it was 'believed to have come from a tomb in the Great Pyramid, Egypt'.

Tiny samples taken revealed, to our excitement, a blend of conifer resin and plant gum suggesting artificial mummification. However, further testing (carbon dating) dated the toad to around 1800AD.