Prof Rosalie David, University of Manchester & former Director of the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology
Biomedical Egyptology, a multidisciplinary study based on analytical investigation of mummies and associated material, has added a new dimension to the study of Ancient Egypt, bridging the gap between arts and sciences. The University of Manchester (UK) has developed an Ancient Egyptian Mummy Tissue Bank, with more than 2,000 tissue, bone, and hair samples. A mummy preserves information about lifestyle, diet, diseases, cause of death, and religious and funerary beliefs, giving us an insight into aspects of the civilisation that archaeology and ancient literature alone cannot provide. The mummified remains of the upper classes and the naturally desiccated bodies of the general population provide rare opportunities to study the health patterns of every social class in an ancient society. Moreover, as much of Egypt’s modern population is descended directly from the Ancient Egyptians, epidemiological and comparative health studies over a 7,000-year period are relevant to future research on the evolution and development of specific diseases. Future work will doubtless involve the use of ever-more sophisticated diagnostic techniques. This type of research has the potential to make a major contribution not only to Egyptology but also to the universal history of disease and medical treatment.