Contemporary Medicine reveals Ancient Secrets
The mummy of a young child has travelled the world for a number of decades and recently been the center of interest of a group of historians and medical professionals who have utilized top of the line diagnostic technology to unveil its secrets, without unveiling its wrapping or cutting into it. Their findings were then discussed by a number of distinguished experts in the field at a symposium on Nov. 2 at the museum in Urbana, Illinois. Supporters of the event included: ATAM, Dr. Allan C. Campbell Family Distinguished Speaker Series, and the Richard and Barbara Faletti Gallery of African Cultures Fund.
The mummy initially underwent a series of X-rays and CT scans, as well as other tests which included analyzing cloth fragments, insects and hardened resins. The second round of diagnostic tests proved even more helpful with the incredible technological advances the medical field has experienced over the last few years.
Evidence from the scans and an analysis of the materials used in embalming and supporting the body, with tests such as carbon-14 dating, suggested that the child came from a wealthy family that lived in Egypt during the Roman time period. Other evidence included the use of expensive red pigment from Spain and gold gilt decoration. A digitally reconstructed image of the mommy from cross-sectional CT scans revealed the bone structure and the fact that the embalmers had left the brain, heart and lungs in the body. The scans also provided insight on the materials used in the process of embalming, but not fine details of the soft tissue that remained.
The fact that the mummy still had its baby teeth (with adult teeth coming in) and its long bones were not yet fully developed at the time of its death, helped experts date the child’s age to somewhere between 7 and nine years old.
Experts also noted that either the embalmers did not do a good job of preserving the body or it was not immediately treated after death. One hypothesis for the second reason might be that the child died during an epidemic, resulting in an overload for the embalmers over a short time period.
However, despite all the comprehensive modern testing and research, the mummy child has kept some of its secrets. There is still no conclusive evidence to date that suggests the child’s sex or cause of death.