An engineering student used LEGO to help restore an ancient Egyptian mummy case at Cambridge University. The 10th Century BC Hor Mummy case excavated in 1896 from a Luxor temple had been languishing in a museum basement for the last fifty years.
Its face had been torn to pull out the mummy it previously encased, its chest sagged due to damp conditions and important parts of it were cracking and unstable. So conservators at the Fitzmillian museum called upon the university’s engineering department for help and 22 year old David Knowles rose to the cause. With LEGO.
Engineering meets history
Conservators at the Fitzmillian museum told the BBC that an engineer was necessary to point out the wooden case’s stress points and to stabilize the cartonnage for safe preservation.
As part of his final project at the university, Knowles worked with Sophie Rowe to restore the ancient mummy case.
First it was necessary to stabilize the exterior, for which Knowles devised what the conservators called an “instrument of torture” complete with a “helmet and shoulder pads made with mesh.”
This supportive structure was molded with heat to ensure an exact fit.
A heart of LEGO
Then the team humidified the inside of the case in order to lift the sagging chest. But before they could do that, Knowles created a padded platform made of LEGO pieces to provide interior support.
This platform is designed to stay inside the cartonagge forever, once again bridging the centuries between ancient Egyptian and contemporary design.
Knowles told the BBC that LEGO, his favorite toy growing up, is commonly used in the engineering department. He also ensured the museum conservators that these plastic pieces are ideal for the cartonnage restoration project because they are lightweight and won’t degrade over time.
Albeit still slightly damaged, the Hor mummy with a heart of LEGO is now on permanent display at the Fitzmillian museum.
For the full scoop and more technical details please visit the BBC, where this story originally appeared.