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Five Quad transports mummies, not patients for Albany Institute of Art

By Haley Viccaro
On April 2, 2012

Five Quad student volunteers had the opportunity to transport 2,000-year-old mummies in their ambulance on Saturday to Albany Medical Center for doctors to determine their genders.

The mummies were transported by stretcher from the Albany Institute of History and Art to the ambulance under the supervision of Five Quad Director of Operations Max Weinstein. 

"UAlbany is a cosponsor in the actual project to identify the mummies so they wanted to try to get students involved since we have the means of transportation," Weinstein said.

According to Weinstein, Five Quad provided two of their older stretchers for them to be reconfigured to safely transport the mummies. A special board was used for extra support on the stretcher. Each mummy was taken to the hospital separately due to their age and delicacy.

"We drove not even ten miles an hour because they are very fragile," said Clarissa Meyers, a junior human biology major and Five Quad lieutenant. "We met a lot of people and the film crew making the movie had us filmed while bringing the mummies to the hospital."

In the back of the ambulance Lauren Brindisi, a senior biology major and Five Quad new member trainer, along with a member from the Institute and two videographers rode with the mummies. Meyers drove the ambulance behind Weinstein, who was in Five Quad's squad car.

"We had Max in the squad car in front of us because he could test out the bumps so we could determine how slow we should go," Brindisi said. "We had a trail of people who followed us from the museum and when we got there, there were a bunch of news crews and people with cameras."

The mummies were placed in X-rays and CAT scans to verify their gender, cause of death and lifestyle. Drs. Robert Brier and Peter Lacovara, leading experts in Egyptology, directed the procedure with the scans and determined the results.

"We stayed there all day and got to see all of the X-rays and CAT scans," Meyers said. "We got to know what they were looking at and what they found. Even though the mummies are so old the scans came out perfectly."

The mummies were both determined to be male, which was a surprise to the Institute since one of the mummies was believed to be a female. According to Brindisi, the Institute was thrilled because the paintings on the sarcophagus indicated that the mummy was a male.

"It made more sense that sarcophagus held a male because the paintings told its name, dynasty and place it came from," Brindisi said.

The mummies were exposed and not held in their sarcophagi during the transport and at the hospital. Meyers said one of the mummies was unwrapped from the waist up.

"One of the mummies was half unwrapped," she said. "He was really dark and looked like black bone, not white like regular bone. The details of the bones were very in depth."

When the scans were completed at the hospital Brindisi and Meyers transported the mummies back to their home at the Institute.

"It was even cooler than I thought it was going to be," Brindisi said. "I thought we weren't even going to see them; it was crazy."

The mummies' transfer and tests at the hospital were filmed for the documentary "The Albany Mummies: Unraveling an Ancient Mystery" by UAlbany faculty member Mary Valentis and retired English professor William Rainbolt. It is expected to make its debut in late 2012.

The mummies will be featured in the exhibit "GE Presents: the Mystery of the Albany Mummies: the Story of Ankhefenmut," scheduled for Sept. 21, 2013 - June 8, 2014.

The mummies were purchased from the Cairo Museum and have been at the Albany Institute since 1909. They are one of the Institute's most popular and ancient assets. 

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