Ancient Egypt and Archaeology Web Site

asru 3Reconstructed head of Asru
 
The mummy of Asru, and the two associated coffins, were presented to the Manchester museum in 1825 by E. and W. Garratt.  They were the first antiquities of importance in the Museum's Egyptology collection and they date from c.700 BC. The group probably came from Thebes (Luxor) in southern Egypt.
 
The well-preserved body, unwrapped before it arrived at the Museum, was accompanied by a package of mummified viscera, placed on the legs. Inscriptions on the coffin provide the biographical that details that the owner was named Asru and her mother was Ta-du-Amen and she was a temple chantress. Her duties involved singing to accompany the sacred rituals to the god Amun. She may have performed her duties religious centre at the Temple of Amun at Karnak.
 
Mummies are a useful resource for continuing scientific research and are respected as remains rather than artefacts. The new application of one technique - immunocytochemistry - has revealed in Asru the presence of the parasitic disease schistosomiasis. Another technique has enabled us to identify that aromatic oils were used to anoint her head before it was bandaged.
 
Other images of Asru

Scientific studies reveal that Asru was probably 50 or 60 when she died. X-rays of her spine show a 'slipped disc' and changes due to osteoarthritis, as well as abnormal cells in the right mastoid bone which suggest an earlier infection. These conditions would have caused chronic back pain and severe earache.
 
Histology has revealed a hydatid cyst in her lung, caused by a tapeworm Echinococcus Granulosus. As a result of this cyst Asru would have experienced chest pain and breathlessness. Electron microscopy has identified a parasite found in part of her intestine as a nematode worm. Entering the human body through the skin when the person comes into contact with contaminated soil, the worm subsequently matures in various parts of the body and the female lays its eggs in the stomach, causing severe inflammation. Symptoms would have included pain, diarrhoea and blood in the faeces. Immunocytochemistry has shown that Asru also suffered from schistosomiasis. This evidence occurred in bladder tissue removed from the mummy using an endoscope. One of the main symptoms would have been blood in the urine.

The Greater Manchester Police Force devise a procedure to obtain the finger and toe prints and these indicated that Asru, but the lack of wear, had led a privileged lifestyle.
 
Other studies have included the scientific reconstruction of Asru's head. Usually, such reconstructions are built up on a cast of the skull. Here, however, a direct cast cannot be made because it would damage the tissue on the head. Instead, X-ray computer tomography has been employed to obtain data of the skull. Using this data, a sophisticated, numerically controlled milling machine carves a replica of the skull from a block of polystyrene. The face can then e built up on this replica skull.
The world's first International Egyptian Mummy Tissue Bank was set up in the Manchester Museum in 1997. This provides a new type of museum collection, enabling research to be carried out on samples obtained from a wide range of mummies representing various social categories, individual ages, historical periods and geographical locations within Egypt.
 
The samples of mummified remains from the Nile Valley are drawn from collections worldwide (outside Egypt), and enable investigation of a far larger sample of mummies than previously possible. Initial studies have focused on schistosomiasis, but the Bank is available for bona fide research on other diseases, genetic studies and the investigation of mummification processes. It has great potential as an international resource for scientists from a wide range of disciplines. Diagnostic tools such as immunocytochemistry can be used very effectively to detect disease in the small samples held in the Bank.
 
asruasru 2The International Egyptian Mummy Tissue Bank at the Manchester Museum is supported with funds from The Leverhulme Trust and The Kay Hinckley Charitable Trust. Today, the disease schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) occurs in 74 countries. An estimated 600 million people are at risk from infection, and 200 million have already contracted the disease. Modern irrigation schemes and dams have provided new breeding places for the snails that act as intermediate hosts in the life cycle of the parasite - a flatworm or blood fluke known as a schistosome. Its eggs cause the disease. Eggs laid inside the human host are usually discharged into the water. Some, however, are retained and trigger immunological responses in the liver, gut wall and bladder.

Two species of the parasite - Schistosoma haematobium and Schistosoma mansoni - cause disease in modern Egypt. Both were present in ancient times. Today, schistosomiasis is controlled by programmes to clear snails from the canals, public health education, and mass chemotherapy using the drug Praziquantel. International teams are trying to develop a vaccine against the disease.


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