Opening the Coffin of Minirdis

Two views of the coffin of Minirdis, from above (front) and one side.

Photos by Sophie Hammond-Hagman.

The very first mummy and coffin we treated for this project was that of Minirdis. We know his name from the hieroglyphs on the coffin. 

Using CT (computerized tomography) scanning we were able to learn a lot about the mummy before we removed the lid. The scans showed that the mummy inside was that of a boy, between 12 and 14 years old.  Some time after the mummy was wrapped, it had slid down the coffin (maybe someone tried to stand the coffin upright) causing a lot of damage. The mummy’s legs had broken at the knees and his feet had fallen off sideways. One of his heel bones had come off and had moved up and under his legs, pinning them up against the lid of the coffin. The cartonnage mask and panels had been dragged down to the left hand side, and his mask had moved, rotated, and been partly crushed.

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CT scanning of the mummy showed the cartonnage (in yellow) had shifted and was damaged. Rendering by JP Brown.

 

In the scans we were also able to see how the lid rested on the base of the coffin. On the bottom edge of the coffin lid there were tabs that would slot into holes on the top edge of the lower half of the coffin. With the scans we knew before opening the coffin that once the lid was off it would need a temporary mount to elevate it and avoid damaging the protruding tabs.

Conservator JP Brown devised a method to remove and lift the coffin top using steel plates clamped to aluminum beams. The lid was carefully lifted a few millimeters using plastic wedges. Long steel plates were then slid underneath the top and bottom edges of the lid and clamped to the beams. Shorter steel plates were inserted under the edges of the lid and also clamped to the beams. Four people (one at each corner) slowly lifted the steel support structure up two feet and then moved the coffin top over to a table.

Finally, for the first time in recorded history, we were seeing the contents of the coffin of Minirdis.

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Minirdis revealed, with his team of heavy lifters, from L to R: collections assistant Brian Cory, conservation volunteer Michael Marozas, conservator Morgan Nau, and Regenstein conservator JP Brown.

 

The opening of the coffin was so exciting that AP News reporters even came to cover the story and interviewed JP! See the video below.

Scientists Open Egyptian Mummy Coffin in Chicago