Manchester University has launched what it claims is the world's first centre for biomedical and forensic studies in Egyptology.
The move follows pioneering work on developing methods of studying Egyptian mummies by researchers at the university over the past two decades.
Rosalie David, director of the new centre, says that although Egyptology is taught widely around the world as a history or language option, until the Manchester initiative there has not been a research centre which approached the discipline from a specifically scientific basis.
As well as carrying out research, the centre will offer an MSc degree in biomedical and forensic studies in Egyptology. The course, the first of its type in the world, starts next year and will arm students with an appreciation of scientific techniques for examining remains. It will prepare students for professions such as museum curatorship, specialist areas of forensic science or further research work.
Dr David says the future research objectives include advancing techniques for extracting DNA from mummy remains such as hair, tissue and bone. "This will ultimately give us details of population movement and diseases in mummies which cannot at present be identified."
The team also wants to carry out epidemiological studies to allow diseases that afflicted Egyptians 5000 years ago to be traced to their modern descendants.