The value of CT imaging of Horus in determining the method of mummification and the sex of the mummy
- J Davey MSc; MEB Stewart MBBS, DDR, FRANZR; OH Drummer MSc PhD.
- Conflict of interest: None declared.
Radiology was used to determine the sex of a child mummy who had conflicting records based on two different translations of a name written in a section of papyrus inserted into the mummy wrappings and also to determine the type of mummification used to preserve the body.
Ancient texts of Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus were consulted for references to mummification, and Nicholson Museum records provided details of the mummy which was examined at Central Sydney Imaging using Toshiba Aquilion 64 CT machine (Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation, Tochigi, Japan). The original CT scan data were loaded into a Vitrea 2 (Vital Images, Minnetonka, MN, USA) workstation at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Melbourne, Australia, for further study.
The scans showed that the child had been elaborately mummified according to ancient descriptions albeit with one variation. The provenance of the child was unknown but stylistically appeared to be from the Greco-Roman Period of ancient Egypt. Interpretation of the CT images determined that the child was male, had died of unknown cause and had been excerebrated and eviscerated post-mortem when the heart was removed. Unexplained inclusions were identified within the abdomen and thorax. Broken and displaced ribs showed evidence of a previous endoscopic investigation.
This study provided evidence that CT scanning was an excellent non-invasive modality to evaluate ancient mummies in its ability to demonstrate fine anatomical detail and identify post-mortem changes. The study underlined the role of using current medical practice to determine sex rather than relying on ancient texts and uncorroborated opinion.