Because of an understandable reluctance to unwrap or disassemble The Field Museum’s mummies, scientists knew little about their construction and contents. But take a look at how recent technologies have provided fresh insights into the life histories of our Egyptian mummies and our Nazca trophy heads from Peru.
The Field Revealed: Virtually Unwrapping Mummies (2:15)
Since 1893, the mummy of a female from the Ptolemaic dynasty (Cleopatra's era) has remained safely stored in the Museum’s vaults, along with several other mummies from the World’s Columbian Exposition. Her secrets lay hidden under layers of linen until the summer of 2011, when a mobile CT scanner made it possible to “unwrap” her virtually, revealing details about her medical history and mummification process.
For more behind-the-scenes stories, check out the latest release in our video series “The Field Revealed”, where every object has a tale to tell.
Nazca Trophy Heads (5:12)
Around 1,500 years ago, the Nazca people of southern Peru buried human heads in some of their graves. Cactus spines bound the lips shut and the eyes closed, and a hole in the forehead held a rope for suspending the skull. Scientists thought these were the heads of conquered warriors from distant lands, until recent isotope and DNA studies revealed a different story.
To learn more, check out the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet interview with Field Museum scientist Dr. Ryan Williams.