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Preserving the Crocodile Mummy at The British Museum (Video)

The conservation of the crocodile mummy at The British Museum is a meticulous process led by Barbara Wills, an expert in the department of Conservation and Scientific Research. The crocodile mummy, excavated in 1895 at Kom Ombo, Egypt, by Jacques de Morgan, hasn’t been on display for over 75 years. Barbara’s role involves ensuring its stability and resilience for both present and future exhibition. 

The initial step involves a non-invasive CT scan at the Royal Veterinary College, revealing intricate details of the mummification process. Stones in the stomach and remnants of its last meal offer insights into ancient practices. Barbara’s careful intervention secures fragile areas before scanning, employing techniques like encapsulation and adhesive application. 

Dust removal follows, vital not only for aesthetics but also to prevent potential damage. Barbara’s methodical approach involves using a museum vacuum cleaner and specialized tools to gently lift off dust and secure delicate areas. 

Science plays a crucial role, with SEM scanning revealing the composition of materials used in mummification. Analysis of the thick resin covering the crocodile reveals surprising insights, aiding in refining conservation methods. 

The exhibition not only showcases the crocodile but also educates visitors on ancient Egyptian reverence for sacred animals. Through meticulous conservation and scientific examination, Barbara ensures the crocodile mummy remains a captivating testament to ancient rituals. 

Top image: Mummified crocodile with numerous infant crocodiles adhering to the back; reed frame; whole coated with resin. Source: © The Trustees of the British Museum/CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0