The conservation and analysis of the natural mummies from Sudan: a unique insight into the Medieval period

This week’s Wednesday morning staff talk was presented by Daniel Antoine, Curator of Bioarcheaology and Barbara Wills, Conservator of Organics at The British Museum. They talked about their current work on the conservation and analysis of natural mummies from Sudan, providing a unique insight into life in the Medieval period.

The remains of over 1000 individuals were recently recovered as part of the Merowe Dam Archaeological Salvage Project near the 4th Cataract of the Nile in Sudan. This assemblage is now curated at the British Museum and represents a unique record of the inhabitants of the Middle Nile Valley from the Neolithic to the Medieval period. Most of the remains are skeletonised but over 40 naturally mummified individuals from three medieval sites were also recovered. These remarkably preserved individuals offer a rare insight into the Medieval period that is seldom visible in the archaeological record, including some unique examples of medieval tattoos. A two-year-long project, supported by the Clothworkers’ Foundation, has allowed the museum to develop innovative ways of cleaning, stabilising and supporting these extremely fragile mummies prior to their analysis.

You can find out more about the Merowe Dam Archaeological Salvage Project here.