Macquarie University
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Raising the dead: experimental and metaphysical approaches of rehydrating ancient mummified human tissue

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posted on 2022-11-01, 04:56 authored by Lara Petrie

Ancient Egyptian mummies have played myriad roles throughout various aspects of global social, cultural, and medical histories, but have always been key touchstones in the representation and understanding of both ancient Egyptian culture and the broader study of archaeological human remains. Historically, the scientific study of these mummified individuals has spanned many disciplines and methodologies. Rehydration of ancient mummified tissues was first employed by Egyptologist Sir Marc Ruffer in the early 1900s, but thereafter was rapidly co-opted by the field of modern forensic science. Subsequently, rehydration has rarely been employed in purely bioarchaeological contexts. Attempting to recontextualise rehydration within bioarchaeological contexts, this thesis spans the discourses of the ethics of human remains study and display, the roles of performativity and biocultural theories of religion in the current state of Egyptological praxes, and our current understanding and depiction of ancient Egyptian mortuary philosophies. From a theoretical platform of embodiment, this research considers how ancient Egyptian notions of postmortem agency and cohesive social identity allow exploration of the potential physical and metaphysical impacts and interactions of the partial or total rehydration of mummified individuals. In focusing on the potential for metaphysical interactions with the deceased, this thesis explores notions of extended cognition and networks of identity, seeking an empathetic reconstruction of connections with the ancient dead as real human beings, through death and into memory.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction -- Chapter 2 Methodology -- Chapter 3 Rehydrating mummified tissue -- Chapter 4 Ethical considerations -- Chapter 5 Metaphysical considerations -- Chapter 6 Discussion -- Chapter 7 Conclusion -- Bibliography -- Appendices -- Appendix A1-A9: Twitter screenshots - modern Egyptian voices -- Appendix B: Tables 2-8: translations of The Book of the Dead -- Appendix C: Tables 9-11: translations of the Pyramid Texts


A thesis submitted to Macquarie University for the degree of Master of Research

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis MRes, Macquarie University, Department of Ancient History, 2021

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ronika Power


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125 pages