AT A GLANCE
- Virtual 3D CT provides Emory University researchers
with new information about ancient mummies.
- Virtual CT shows whether mummies were royalty or of
a lower class and suggests how they might have died.
- One of 9 mummies imaged may be Ramsses I, founder
of the most powerful dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs.
RESEARCHERS DISCOVER NEW INFORMATION
WITH VIRTUAL 3D CT SCANS OF MUMMIES
CHICAGO - Researchers are taking virtual three- dimensional
tours of Egyptian mummies, learning details never before available
without destroying the priceless remains, thanks to advances
in computed tomography (CT) imaging, according to an Emory University
study being presented here today at the 86th Scientific Assembly
and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America
One of the 9 human mummies being studied may be 3,000-year-old
Ramsses I, first ruler of the 19th dynasty, and grandfather
of Ramsses the Great, one of the most powerful and best known
pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. The virtual imaging revealed valuable
information, including the finding that the mummy's skull was
filled with molten resin, an embalming fluid reserved only for
a person of royal status. CT images of the chest and abdomen
reveal an incision in the left abdomen and replacement of abdominal
organs with tightly rolled linen packs, mummification techniques
practiced during the reign of Ramsses I.
"Although there are studies of mummies using standard CT, this
is the first to combine the use of 3D and virtual imaging techniques,"
said Heidi Hoffman, M.D., principal researcher and resident
in the department of radiology, Emory University Hospital, Atlanta.
"It's like exploring the insides of the mummies with a camera,
without unwrapping them or destroying them in any way."
Virtual reality imaging involves taking a number of cross-sectional
CT pictures, or "slices" of the body, and entering the images
into a computer. The computer digitizes them, combining the
scans to create a 3D image. The radiologist can direct the computer
to make a pass or "fly-through" in a particular area to gather
The researchers were able to determine that the ear of the
mummy believed to be Ramsses I was very deformed, perhaps as
the result of a bad piercing, and that he might not have been
circumcised. He also appears to have suffered from a severe
and destructive ear infection, which may have been the cause
The mummies were acquired by Emory's Michael C. Carlos Museum in May,
Findings in other mummies:
- Using virtual CT to enter the skull through the nose of
one mummy, researchers found the Egyptians had punctured a
hole through the bone in the nose, through which they apparently
pulled out the brain as they were preparing the corpse for
- Virtual CT showed organs were still intact in some mummies,
indicating those mummies were of a lower class and that mummification
techniques varied with dynasty and class.
One mummy initially thought to be a baby was determined to
be a young child whose legs were amputated below the knees.
This same mummy has bone damage in the right elbow indicating
he probably suffered from infection.
A small child had a skull fracture, which may have been the
cause of death.
Other mummies imaged included several women, a Roman general
and a priest.
Co-authors of a paper on the topic being presented at RSNA
by Dr. Hoffman are William E. Torres, M.D., Randy D. Ernst,
M.D., Eric F. Mutz, M.D., Kaye P. Barefield, M.D. and Steve