Thursday, January 26, 2017


A female mummy from ancient Egypt lay outstretched inside a hospital scanning machine.
The British Museum had brought the mummy to St. Thomas’ Hospital for a non-invasive examination of the body beneath its wrappings.
“We’ll begin by doing the head and neck in two millimetre slices. I’m just relieved that nobody will have to give this patient the bad news that she’s terminal.”
The radiologist had made the joke to bridge the jarring disconnect between ancient death, wrapped up in magical spells, and the modern day machinery of medical imaging. 
The radiation scan - at a dose lethal for the living - blasted through the linen windings. It was like a penetration of sunlight warming the bones after the ache of the desert night.
The machine hummed. A spinning cylinder curved around the mummy’s head like a night sky arching over Egypt.
The sand-dry cells of the body, spread out in an undulating landscape on the CT tray, stirred in a sudden breath.
Life! Resurgent life! It eddied, thickened, mounted in force, blowing, gusting, then blasting through the mummy like a desert sand storm.

Life, pulsating life! 
It came from above like a scattering of falling stars.
On the desert surface archaeologists dragged a ground penetrating radar unit in a grid pattern across the sand, passing over the exact spot where aeons before, priests had dragged a coffin on a sled.
The GPR waves pulsed down, electro-magnetic energy penetrating a subsurface structure, the cavity of a secret tomb.
The waves met a decayed wooden coffin - carved with the the head of a snarling animal with pointed ears - before scattering the waves back to the surface to be decoded in a series of wavy graphs.
Beneath the carved lid of the coffin, a mummy stirred in its rusted linen wrappings.
The life force began to trickle, wash and then gush like a wave through a dried up river course.
Nerve endings tingled like pin pricks of light.
The mummy’s awareness swirled and expanded from its single point of darkness inside the tomb, spinning out to the universe like stars in the outer arms of a spiral nebula.
From the mummy’s mouth, cracked like mud around a dried up waterhole, there issued a rattling gasp for air, then, after a lengthy silence, a dusty exhalation like the rasp of a sandstorm.
The mummy felt another wave pass through his body, this time a wave of rage.
He ripped his arms free from the wrappings.
Now he smashed the crumbling lid off his coffin, sending splinters and powder flying, just as legend told that as a baby he had ripped himself violently from his mother’s womb.

They moved in a slow motion dance, bearing precious gifts from ancient Egypt.
Cranes, stackers and palette trucks shifted hundreds of artefacts in orange crates into place in the British Museum’s Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery.
Banners of a crocodile-headed god and an Egyptian queen filled the space, emblazoned with the words.
A new blockbuster exhibition from Cairo was just days away from opening.