The Results

The Results

Thorough analysis of the CT scans by Field Museum scientists, radiologists, dentists, and other specialists have helped to solve many of our mummies’ mysteries.

Male or Female?
Details of soft tissues and pelvic shapes helped reveal the sex of many specimens—although one mummy lacks its arms and entire torso! (Priests likely re-wrapped the remaining body parts after tomb robbers damaged the original mummy.)

Age & Health
Dental and skeletal imaging also helped scientists approximate the age of individuals and identify health issues that may have plagued them in life. For example, unfused bones and the eruption pattern of the teeth revealed one Egyptian mummy to be that of a teenage boy, buried inside a too-big coffin apparently intended for his use as an adult.

Scans of a Peruvian bundle burial revealed another surprise: two skeletons—a newborn along with a woman and who may have died during childbirth.

Mummification Procedures
Imaging of Egyptian mummies also exposed the tools of the embalmers’ trade: resins, pads, and other materials that aided in the mummification process—and helped maintain a mummy’s facial features so the spirit would recognize and reunite with the body after death.

Mummifying Animals

Archeologists often find mummified animals in the tombs of Egyptians. In some cases, these appear to be household pets, perhaps intended to provide companionship in the afterlife.

Occasionally, mummified animals appear to have been meant as a source of food for the deceased, to sustain him or her during the journey to the other world.

However, most animal mummies were offerings to a god associated with the animal. Archaeologists have uncovered enormous cemeteries all over Egypt containing thousands of mummified cats, birds, crocodiles, and more.

Inca Mummies

Perhaps the most well-known South American mummies are the Inca ice mummies, called the capacocha, or “royal blessing.”

As the honored children of local nobles, they traveled from their homelands to Cuzco, the Inca capital, where they were celebrated and received gifts.

After they returned home to their native province, priests fed them corn beer and quickly sacrificed them to send them to the gods. Their bodies, along with gifts of gold and silver figurines and fine pottery, were then buried on icy peaks as messengers to the mountain deities.

CT Scanning

Due to their extreme fragility, the last time many of the Museum’s mummies were examined was in 1931, when conventional 2D x-rays of them were published in Fieldiana. These x-rays often raised more questions than they answered.

Thanks to the generosity of Robert Dakessian, President and CEO of Genesis Medical Imaging, a mobile medical CT scanner mounted in a specially adapted truck was brought to the Museum, where it was set up in the West Parking Lot and used to generate scans of specimens.

Scanning Specialists

The Museum invited many specialists—such at Dr. Michael Li, DDS, MS from UIC Orthodontics, Dr. Jeffrey Rosengarten, MD, Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, and Dr. Mary Peters, DDS and volunteer in the Museum’s Geology Department—to view and analyze the scans.

These specialists helped to clarify the sex, age, and health issues faced by each specimen, and determine whether injuries to the mummies were sustained before death, during the embalming process, or some time afterwards.