CT Scan of 1,000-Year-Old Statue Reveals Mummy Inside

 

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Sometimes, the third time is not the charm – even when Jet Lit juggling magic glowing balls in the air. Critics and audiences learned that this summer when the third film in the popular Mummy franchise — adventures that were vibrant, old-fashioned action romps with tongue firmly in cheek.  The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor raked in the dough worldwide but a recent CT scan of a 1000 year old statute has revealed a real-life mummy inside.

What looks like a traditional statue of Buddha dating back to the 11th or 12th century was recently revealed to be quite a bit more. A CT scan and endoscopy carried out by the Netherlands-based Drents Museum at the Meander Medical Centre in Amersfoort, showed the ancient reliquary fully encases the mummified remains of a Buddhist master known as Liuquan of the Chinese Meditation School. While it was known beforehand the remains of a person were inside, another startling discovery was made during the scan: where the organs had been removed prior to mummification, researches discovered rolls of paper scraps covered in Chinese writing.

This special examination recently occurred in the Meander Medical Center. Created by the architectural team, atelierpro the new Meander Medical Centre in is a completely new type of hospital. In this impressive health care institution the patient remains central and the connection with the surrounding nature is strongly felt throughout the building. This creates a healing environment where – partly thanks to the inclusion of only private rooms – patients can gain more rest for a fast recovery.

This would make a great Indiana Jones movie, but instead the leader of this study is the Amersfoort resident Erik Bruijn, an expert in the field of Buddhist art and culture and guest curator at the World Museum in Rotterdam. Gastrointestinal and liver doctor Reinoud Vermeijden and radiologist Ben Heggelman received the Chinese mummy at the hospital for internal examination on September 3rd. The mummy was part of the Mummies exhibition earlier this year and dates from the 11th or 12th century.

With an endoscope made specially available by Surgical Technologies in Didam, Vermeijden took samples of a yet unidentified material and examined the thoracic and abdominal cavities. He made a spectacular discovery – among all kinds of rotten material in the space where there had one been organs, he found paper scraps that are printed with ancient Chinese characters. Heggelman took a CT scan that beautifully shows how the mummy looks inside and took samples of bone material for DNA testing.

In this instance the mummified body is of the Buddhist master Liuquan, who belonged to the Chinese Meditation School. The discovery of the mummy is of great cultural significance. It is not only the only one of its kind, but also the only Chinese Buddhist mummy that is available for scientific research in the West.

Mummy

Mummies with jump-in-your-seat moments of pure fright have more in common with Indiana Jones or Boris Karloff. However this nearly 1,000 year old statue received a CT scan revealing a mummy inside. 

Relics have long been important to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and many other religions. In these cultures, reliquaries are often presented in shrines, churches, or temples to which the faithful make pilgrimages in order to gain blessings. In Central West Africa, reliquaries used in the Bwete rituals contain objects considered magical, or the bones of ancestors, and are commonly constructed with a guardian figure attached to the reliquary.

In Buddhism, stupa are an important form of reliquary, and may be included in a larger complex known as a chaitya. A stupa (from Sanskrit: m., स्तूप, stūpa, Tibetan མཆོད་རྟེན་ chöten, Sinhalese: දාගැබ,Pāli: थुप “thūpa”, literally meaning “heap”) is a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the ashes of Buddhist monks, used by Buddhists as a place of meditation. A reliquary (also referred to as a shrine or by the French term châsse) is a container for relics. These may be the purported physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. The authenticity of any given relic is often a matter of debate; for that reason, some churches require documentation of the relic’s provenance.

The term is sometimes used loosely of containers for the body parts of non-religious figures; in particular the Kings of France often specified that their hearts and sometimes other organs be buried in a different location from their main burial.

Stupas originated as pre-Buddhist earthen burial mounds, in which ascetics were buried in a seated position,called chaitya. After the parinirvana of the Buddha, his remains were cremated and the ashes divided and buried under eight mounds with two further mounds encasing the urn and the embers. Little is known about these early stupas, particularly since it has not been possible to identify the original ten monuments. However, some later stupas, such as at Sarnath and Sanchi, seem to be embellishments of earlier mounds.

Stupa

Different architectural features that comprise Shwedagon Pagoda and similar Mon-style stupas, in Yangon,Myanmar. It is believed that the more objects placed into the stupa, the stronger the energy of the Stupa will be.

The stupa was elaborated as Buddhism spread to other Asian countries becoming, for example, the chorten of Tibet and the pagoda in East Asia. The pagoda has varied forms that also include bell-shaped and pyramidal styles. In the Western context, there is no clear distinction between the stupa and the pagoda. In general, however, stupa is used for a Buddhist structure of India or south-east Asia, whilepagoda refers to a building in East Asia which can be entered and which may be secular in purpose.

Stupas were built in Sri Lanka soon after King Devanampiyatissa converted to Buddhism, the first stupa to be built was theThuparamaya. Later on Sri Lanka went on to build many stupas over the years, some like the Jetavanarama inAnuradhapura being one of the tallest ancient structures in the world.

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The research will be published in the monograph that will appear on Master Liuquan. The mummy has since been taken to Hungary where it will be on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Budapest until May 2015.

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About Art Selectronic

Art Selectronic is an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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