When Sir Godfrey Hounsfield invented one of the first CT scanners - it's the scary-looking machine that takes multiple x-rays from different angles all at once - I doubt he expected anyone like Tamut to use it.

For starters, no amount of x-raying and diagnosing of her ills could save Tamut; she died nearly 3000 years ago.

But death hasn't stopped her from becoming one of the stars in a surprisingly lively exhibition at Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, better known as the Powerhouse. It's called Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives.

Thanks to those who, like Sir Godfrey, dreamed up CT scanning, museum experts and scientists are now using the technology to scan Egyptian mummies to discover what lies far beneath their wrappings.

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The ins and outs of mummies in Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences exhibition. Photo / Jayne Ion
The ins and outs of mummies in Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences exhibition. Photo / Jayne Ion

It's far less intrusive than a 19th century pastime of public "unwrappings" where crowds gathered to see mummies unwrapped, dissected and not-very-scientific-theories expounded.

This stopped years ago, replaced by x-raying mummies. However, x-raying doesn't provide as much information as a CT scan and British Museum staff, unsure even of the gender of some mummies in its collection, wanted to know more.

Were they sick during their lives? With what? How were bodies mummified to grant the deceased eternal life in the netherworld? How did things change over time?

Tamut is one of six who underwent the 3D CT scanning then travelled from the British Museum to Australia for Exploring Ancient Lives.

The mummified remains of the six, who lived and died in Egypt between 1800 and 3000 years ago, are displayed alongside their scans and what these revealed about each one's age, gender, health and how they were mummified.

All have been identified as having a different job or role in Egyptian society so different objects relevant to each one are grouped close by. The exhibition includes about 200 objects associated with funerary practices and daily life.

It's ordered chronologically, so you move from Nestawedjat, a married woman who lived circa 700-680BC, to a nameless young man from Roman Egypt, about AD140-180.

In between, there's Tamut, a priest called Irthorru, a nameless temple singer and a 2-year-old child.

Sometimes arranging things chronologically is boring; here, it allows us to clearly see how life and death in Egypt changed during time, particularly after the Romans invaded.

This being 2017, we like the interactive so there are several digital displays.

A particular favourite with the children was smelling substances used in mummification. Gotta say, kids do not like the smell of myrrh.

The ins and outs of mummies in Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences exhibition. Photo / Jayne Ion
The ins and outs of mummies in Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences exhibition. Photo / Jayne Ion

Health and diet go hand-in-hand, so there's a lot about the food these people ate, farming and distribution and how the two staples of their diet - bread and beer - were made. It seems Tamut & Co. were all plagued by a dental decay because of a diet rich in starchy foods.

But Tamut provided one of the more unexpected finds. As a member of a high-status family who were probably eating more meat and animal fat than your average ancient Egyptian, Tamut suffered from what was thought to have been a modern ailment: arteriosclerosis - the thickening and hardening of artery walls. It seems in 3000 years, we still haven't learned our lessons about watching what we eat.

CHECKLIST

Getting there
Emirates' A380s fly daily from Auckland to Sydney with Economy Class return fares currently available from $545.

Details
The Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (the Powerhouse), in Sydney, runs until April 30. For tickets and information, go to maas.museum.

sydney.com