Lidija Mcknight, BSc, MSc, PhD


Personal profile


My fascination with archaeology and historic buildings began as a young child, intrigued by the history and experiences of people, animals and places in the past. Studying for a BSc in Archaeology at the University of York was something of a logical progression, combining learning about archaeology in a city with a rich and varied history. It was during my time at York that I first became involved in the study of Egyptian mummies; a research area which went on to form the focus of my academic career. 

The study of the ancient Egyptian civilisation and its material culture has long captivated the imagination of people of all ages. I work extensively with broadcast and print media to share my research with the general public. Recently, this includes live and pre-recorded features for the BBC, Channel 4, the Discovery Channel, Discovery Science, local and national television and radio stations, and international print media outlets. In my role as Honorary Curator of Archaeozoology at Manchester Museum, I passionately work towards improving accessibility to cultural collections, to enhance learning and to promote interaction with the people of the past, particularly for the underrepresented groups within the visitor demographic. As Project Curator of a touring exhibition developed around my research, I continue to gain valuable expertise in exhibition design, content, contractual arrangements, artefact selection and care, logistics, cross-institution communication, project management and public engagement. The interdisciplinary nature of my research relies on my ability to manage projects across academic and cultural institutions, to forge and maintain exemplary collaborative relationships with partners in the public, private and heritage sectors, and to communicate science to broad audiences in a comprehensive way.  Ultimately, with advancements in science and technology continuing at lightening pace, the ability to work across disciplinary and institutional boundaries to investigate material culture, and to present results in interactive and captivating ways, leads to an increased understanding of the past.

I am an experienced grant writer, having successfully attracted funding for my own research from the Leverhulme Trust, the Wellcome Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the University of Manchester and charitable trusts. I regularly support colleagues with reviewing their own grant applications and publications. I mentor post-doctoral researchers and assess portfolios submitted for accreditation to the Higher Education Academy, and I support candidates on the Institute of Leadership and Management ‘Researchers into Management’ course.

Research interests

My research focuses on the non-invasive study of mummified animal remains from ancient Egypt. I lead a project which reunites archaeological remains in museums around the world to enable the cross-examination of a large and varied dataset. Through the project, known as the Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank, a programme of radiographic analysis (X-ray and CT scanning) of mummified animal remains is conducted in collaboration with partners in the NHS, private healthcare providers and veterinarians, to obtain high-quality imaging data revealing the contents of linen-wrapped mummies. Identification of taxa through radiography alone can be problematic, particularly in the case of incomplete bodies or fragmented remains, both of which are commonplace in material of this nature. I am currently developing a protocol for mummy investigation using enhanced imaging modalities and computer visualisation techniques, combined with 3D printing to replicate anomalous material contained within mummies, thereby enabling more accurate identification. Improving our ability to correctly identify material within animal mummies in turn enables a more comprehensive understanding of their role within the social and religious framework of ancient Egypt.

Egyptology lends itself nicely to public engagement and always proves very popular with the media, creating many opportunities to disseminate my research to a wide audience. I worked with the BBC to develop and film a documentary for Horizon based on animal mummies in 2015, and I have been interviewed on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch and the BBC’s Newsround. I curated an award-winning touring exhibition entitled 'Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed' which opened in Manchester in October 2015. The exhibition then toured to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, World Museum Liverpool, Museum of Wigan Life, the National Trust’s Lyme Park, and is due to be displayed at the National History Museum in Tring during 2020. Alongside the project team, I won the University of Manchester’s Making a Difference Award for Outstanding Public Engagement Initiative in 2016 for the exhibition and the associated outreach events.

I run a programme of experimental mummification using donated animal cadavers all belonging to taxa commonly found mummified and using ingredients identified through analysis of small samples recovered from damaged mummies. The results of the radiographic analysis of ancient mummies are used to inform the experimental design, with radiography used to document changes to the cadaver during mummification and desiccation. To date, 23 animals have been mummified in our lab and all continue to remain in a stable state.

I am privileged to have been involved in the scientific investigation of a number of mummified human bodies throughout my time at Manchester, including 18 mummies from the University collection. I am director of two research projects to investigate mummies from museums in Perth and Paisley, Scotland. Working on both human and animal remains enables the comparison of both mummy types highlighting potential similarities and differences, and identifying trends in the chronology and geographic distribution of mummification techniques and decorative styles.


Through my research, I use non-invasive radiographic imaging techniques to study mummified human and animal remains from ancient Egypt. Mummies are generally wrapped in linen bandages and it is often impossible to see what the bundles contain simply by examining them visually. The use of radiographic techniques such as X-ray and CT scanning, enables us to see what the bundles contain without disturbing the integrity of the bundle and causing irreparable damage. I use enhanced 3D visualisation software and 3D printing to improve identification of anomalies. As techniques improve, the quality of images we can acquire also improves and we are able to gather more and more information about the animals and the way they lived, died, and were treated at the hands of the embalmers.

Engaging the public with academic research and improving our knowledge of museum collections remain key factors behind my research. In turn, this improves accessibility and interpretation of museum objects and creates enthusiasm for the study of ancient civilisations. I enjoy supporting fellow researchers through mentoring, reviewing and assessing applications and publications, and through sharing my knowledge and experience of academia.


I enjoy sharing knowledge of my research with varied audiences including school groups from KS1-KS3, special interest societies and through academic lectures. I have designed and co-directed specialist lecture courses for the Bloomsbury Summer School at University College London.


I gained accreditation as a Fellow of the High Education Academy in September 2017 as formal recognition of my teaching expertise.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Egyptology, The University of Manchester

1 Sept 200430 Sept 2008

Award Date: 5 Jul 2009

Master in Science, Biomedical and Forensic Studies in Egyptology, The University of Manchester

1 Sept 200030 Sept 2001

Award Date: 18 Dec 2001

Bachelor of Science, Archaeology, University of York

9 Jan 199730 Jun 2000

Award Date: 5 Jul 2000

External positions

Visiting Researcher, University of Nebraska

1 Jul 2017 → …

Honorary Curator of Archaeo-Zoology, The Manchester Museum

18 Sept 2014 → …

Project Director, Perth Mummy Project

1 Jun 2013 → …

Vice Chair of Governing Body (Parent), New Mills Nursery School

1 May 20121 Jul 2018

Areas of expertise

  • AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
  • History of Collections
  • Philanthropy
  • Conservation
  • Organic Remains
  • Inorganic Remains
  • QL Zoology
  • BL Religion
  • Egyptology
  • Votive Practice
  • CC Archaeology
  • Ancient Egypt
  • CB History of civilization
  • Egyptology
  • Ancient Egypt

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures


  • imaging
  • image processing
  • animal mummies
  • mummified remains
  • radiography


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