From 27 July 2016, a 2,200-year-old Egyptian mummy will be on display at the Israel National Museum. This is the only mummy in Israel, and it is particularly interesting because it is that of a man who had suffered from a familiar modern-day disease – osteoporosis.
The mummy's origins can be traced back to was Akhmim, a city about 482km south of Cairo. It was given as a gift to the Jesuit Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem around 1930, arriving in an anthropoid coffin decorated with images of gods and inscriptions identifying the man as a high-ranking priest from Akhmim.
It is only recently that the Jesuit Institute agreed to loan the mummy – nicknamed Alex – to the Israel Museum.
Discovering the truth about Alex
Sophisticated embalming techniques, as well as Jerusalem's dry climate means that Alex's remains – including bones, teeth and even blood vessels – are very well preserved. This provided scientists with a very good opportunity to analyse the mummy in detail thanks to CT scans.
After confirming the mummy was that of a man in his thirties or forties – a relatively old age for the time – scientists at the Museum found out he had suffered from advanced osteoporosis, a debilitating bone disease. The skeleton bears traces of many osteoporotic fractures and is missing many teeth.
Osteoporosis is often thought to be a modern-day disease affecting older people in the western world, but Alex contradicts this view, suggesting that 2,200 years ago, individuals who lived privileged lives similar to modern lifestyles – with little sun exposure and sedentary practices – suffered from the same diseases.
Other objects will be put on display at Israel National Museum, including a statue which used to contain a mummified cat and a coffin containing an embalmed ibis, presented at the peace agreements of 1979 as a gift from President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt to Yigael Yadin, then Israel's Deputy Prime Minister.