The Gebelein Man

Visitors to British Museum can explore a five and a half thousand year-old mummy and discover his long-held secrets, from his age at death to the surprising way that he died using an Inside Explorer table permanently installed at the museum.

One of the key attractions in the Early Egypt gallery (Gallery 64) at the British Museum is the body of a man who was buried in about 3500 BC at the site of Gebelein in Upper Egypt. Known as Gebelein Man, he was wrapped in linen and matting, and was placed in a crouched position in a shallow grave. Discovered in 1896, this mummy is one of the best preserved individuals known from Ancient Egypt.

In 2012, British Museum curators have collaborated with the Inside Explorer team and medical experts to perform a CT scan of the mummy. Detailed images created from thescans’ high resolution X-rays allowed researchers at the museum to look inside his bodyand learn about his life – and death – in ways never before possible.

Inside Explorer makes it possible for both researchers and visitors at museum to virtually explore the 3D scans and learn more about the individual and the time times he lived in. The visualization gives us important information about sex, age, status and health conditions. For example the shape of his pelvis confirms he was a male, the fusion lines on his leg and arm bones indicates he had only recently finished growing and was probably 18-21 years old when he died. Consistent with his age, his teeth, fully visible for the first time show light wear and no dental problems.

This technology allow us to learn more about life and death in ancient Egypt, but most importantly our visitors can take part in that exploration and discovery process.Neal Spencer, Keeper of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum, London

In addition, these new scans reveal something more unexpected. A cut in his skin over his left shoulder blade doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the visualization shows that a sharp pointed weapon that penetrated the underlying shoulder blade probably caused this. The absence of any signs of healing and the severity of the injuries suggest that this can be considered the cause of death.

Weapons as symbols of power and status are fairly common in the graves at this period but evidence of violence are extremely rare. The lack of other defensive wounds suggests the injury was not a result of warfare. Perhaps he didn’t even see it coming and a murder took place. He has been on display for many decades. Now, through the use of modern science and state-of-the-art technology, we are beginning to understand how

This story became breaking news and have gained extensive attention in international media with features in print, web and TV. Read some of the news stories here: BBC News, The Times, Daily Mail, ABC News, CBS News, CTV and ITV.

Quick facts:

Location: British Museum
Type: Temporary and Permanent exhibition
Installation: 2012 and 2014
Content: Scans provided by client
Hardware: 55” interactive table integrated in custom made housing
Services: Data processing, visualization, software customization, evaluation, UI
customizations, installation and support