domingo, 18 de diciembre de 2011

Momia del sacerdote Irethorrou

Stanford scans of mummy to be featured in San Francisco museum exhibition

A 2,500-year-old priest named Irethorrou be teaching anatomy to all comers in an exhibition beginning Oct. 31. The mummified remains of this onetime inhabitant of a Middle Egyptian city will be on display in his coffin at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, along with a reconstruction of Irethorrou’s head.
The reconstruction is based on determinations of his bone structure that were part of an intensive series of state-of-the-art scans conducted in August by Stanford University School of Medicine radiologists, processed into a visual format by Stanford information technologists, and interpreted by an Egyptologist with a penchant for mummies from the town of Akhmim, the spot in ancient central Egypt where Irethorrou was found.
A Palo Alto-based software company, Fovia Inc., further wove the radiological data into a three-dimensional “fly-through” movie. Shown on a wall-mounted high-definition monitor in the exhibit gallery, the film will present visitors with visual navigations through the mummy’s anatomy, zooming in to inspect what remains of his internal organ systems and then swooping back out through the wrappings. It’s even possible to see objects, such as small amulets, buried with the mummy and hidden from view since its burial. The exhibition, “Very postmortem: Mummies and medicine,” will continue through summer 2010 at the Legion of Honor, which is part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Irethorrou, who has also been referred to as Iret-net Hor-iw, is one of four mummies that belong to FAMSF’s permanent collection, according to Renee Dreyfus, PhD, its curator of ancient art and interpretation. It turns out that this mummy is one of many from the same cemetery in the ancient city of Akhmim. That cemetery was excavated toward the end of the 19th century during a sudden surge in tourism to Egypt, said Jonathan Elias, PhD, director of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium in Harrisburg, Pa.
Elias, an anthropologist and Egyptologist, explained that in those days, the Egyptian government was short on cash and actively sold mummies to well-heeled travelers who then brought them home, often to the United States. “There are close to 50 of them in the United States alone,” Elias said. He has tracked down a number of mummies from the Akhmim site, one of Egypt’s oldest, to analyze them for clues about ancient Egypt’s culture, diet, common diseases, average life span and the like.
This is much easier to do if you look at many mummies from the same time and place,” said Elias, who has now participated in 20 scans of Akhmim mummies. “All the patterns just pop out at you.”
For example, Elias noted, in mummies of this era amulets are often found at the same locations on or in the body. He suspects that Egyptian physician-priests, having failed to heal a patient during life, ordered these “amulet prescriptions,” as Elias refers to them, placed in key positions as a form of magical medication to ensure that the deceased would be in top shape for the eternal afterlife.
The Stanford scans, viewed through Fovia’s software, would eventually reveal at least 14 such amulets positioned on this mummy’s body, which Dreyfus described as being “in wonderful condition.” She added, “Its state of preservation is such that all its surface bandages are still intact.”
To get the best possible results, the museum and the consortium needed a cutting-edge research scanning capacity, so they spoke to Rebecca Fahrig, PhD, associate professor of radiology. Fahrig had done this sort of thing before — namely in 2005, when a mummy from the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, Calif., was brought to Stanford to be similarly scanned. But the state of the technology has advanced considerably since then, Fahrig said.
The scanning procedure, which took place on Aug. 20, required no disturbance of the mummy’s wrappings. Using two different methods — a high-resolution CT scanner already in clinical use, and a more powerful research scanner that achieves even better resolution — Fahrig obtained some 100 billion “voxels,” the three-dimensional cubic equivalents of pixels, each measuring 0.2 micron on a side. “We went for as much CT data as we could get,” she said. “We knew we were only going to get one shot at it.”
The resulting copious data set can be accessed on demand to produce exquisitely detailed visualizations of, say, a hand or foot or head should somebody ask for it. This has applications beyond Egyptology for use in anatomical training: It’s difficult to obtain this kind of high-resolution image from a live person’s body, because the radiation would damage living tissue.
Chris Beaulieu, MD, PhD, chief of musculoskeletal imaging in the Department of Radiology, was one of the Stanford experts called in to check out the findings. “Many of the organs had been removed,” as is typical of mummies from that era, he said. “But it was remarkable how extremely well-preserved the mummy is in terms of its musculoskeletal structure. I could see incredible detail in the bones and joints.”
Teeth are of special interest to Paul Brown, DDS, consulting associate professor of anatomy. A dentist by training, Brown is also a researcher at the Stanford-NASA Biocomputation Center, which performed the lion’s share of the data crunching necessary to stitch the scan results into visually recognizable images.
Irethorrou’s teeth, other than being a bit worn down from the then-routine Middle Egyptian diet of stone-ground (and probably high-sand) wheat, were in good shape. He was missing just one molar.
Brown is building digital libraries of high-resolution data on teeth, hands, heads and feet for educational uses: for example, in Stanford medical training courses. Geography presents no barrier to the transmission of these three-dimensional representations, so “virtual dissections” could be performed by anatomy students anywhere in the world, said Brown.
Based on his teeth and bones, the Stanford scientists conclude that Irethorrou was perhaps 35 to 45 years old. His skeleton showed only a few traces of arthritis. He doesn’t seem to have lived a harsh life of hard labor.
The cause of Irethorrou’s death remains unknown. But the scan showed bumps on his back that were later determined, on extensive data analysis, to be lesions beneath the skin — as opposed to being simply, say, loose deposits of salt used as a desiccating agent in the embalming process — leading to speculation that an infectious disease such as a pox could have been the culprit.
Using the scan data, Elias and a colleague from DQ Models Development Group in Las Vegas reconstructed Irethorrou’s skull via rapid prototyping — a kind of 3-D printing operation whereby a shape is built up by successive layers of material deposited consecutively one above the next. Elias has since fleshed it out with clay, making sure that its thickness corresponds to meticulous measurements of the facial features of the current residents of Akhmim.
The head reconstruction will be displayed side-by-side with a bust of Ankh-Wennefer, also an Akhmim-dwelling priest who, it is believed, is Irethorrou’s father. (Writings on mummies’ coffins from this era typically state the names of the deceased’s parents.) Ankh-Wennefer’s mummy — that’s right, the mummy’s daddy’s mummy — whom Elias’s consortium had scanned in August 2008, resides in a museum in Tacoma, Wash.
“You can see the family resemblance,” said Dreyfus.
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Second mummy, of an Egyptian priest named Irethorrou, gets its own San Francisco
museum show

By Sura Wood

for the Mercury News

Although he was buried more than 2,500 years ago, a priest
named Irethorrou, who lived in Akhmim, Egypt, circa 500 BC, has attained a
measure of the eternal life he sought.
After getting a "physical" via high-resolution CT scans at Stanford
University's medical school, Irethorrou's 5-foot-4 mummy has become the star
attraction in a new show at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Titled "Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine," the exhibition features
three-dimensional images of the scans and descriptions of the findings, along
with the still-wrapped mummy in his carved black-and-gilt coffin and more than
60 funerary objects drawn from the museum's holdings and private
gallery, the exhibition — which opened on Halloween and continues through July
4, 2010 — represents a confluence of the aspirations of a great civilization,
whose pursuit of the afterlife and quest for immortality have been shrouded in
mystery, with 21st-century forensic technology that can help pull back the veil.

"What I wanted to do with this exhibition was to merge art, art history,
science, technology, medicine and Egyptian archaeology with the mummy and scans
as the centerpiece," says Renée Dreyfus, curator of ancient art at the Fine Arts
Museums of San Francisco. "I've also taken from our permanent collection objects
that have to do with the cult of the dead and the Egyptians' history, beliefs
and concept of
the afterlife."

Irethorrou, one of four mummies owned by the Fine Arts Museums, was
discovered not in a tomb like those that housed royalty and nobility but in the
vast cemetery of Akhmim. Once a thriving city in Middle Egypt on the east bank
of the Nile, it has been a source for mummies since the 1890s when the Egyptians
were selling them as curiosities abroad.
"The mummification process (in this area) was done so well and carefully that
it gives us information about the population, not only how they died but how
they lived," notes Dreyfus.
The exhibition also includes "forensic portraits," white plaster sculptures
modeled on 3-D computer images of skulls — the kind often generated for use in
criminal investigations, which eerily reconstruct facial features. In this case,
the skulls of both Irethorrou and his father were used, and the sculptures
reveal a distinct family resemblance.
A "fly though" clip (a state of the art, high-definition volume rendering by
Fovia) is projected on a large monitor in conjunction with other scanned
imagery, enabling one to visually tour the inside of the mummy, an incredible
journey that recalls the science-fiction film "Fantastic Voyage."
"Every mummy is like a new continent you're exploring for the first time,"
observes Jonathan Elias, the Egyptologist who directs the Akhmim Mummy Studies
Consortium and who collaborated with the museum on this project. "You feel
exhilarated because you understand what you're looking at, but at the same time
there are so many unknowns it's like traveling to a place you've never been to
at all."
The Egyptians preserved bodies through sophisticated mummification practices,
and the scans, which establish a complete record for posterity, take that
preservation one step further. "As the technology has improved, it has
revolutionized the field," Elias says. "Originally, the only way to study what
was inside the wrappings of a mummy was to unroll them and perform autopsy-like
procedures. CT scanning makes most of that unnecessary. The only thing they
can't do is accurately identify materials or take samples of tissue."
Here's what the scans have revealed so far: Irethorrou, a man 35 to 45, had
no broken bones and was placed in his coffin with his arms crossed over his
chest. His teeth are in nearly perfect condition. His brain was discarded, and
his other organs were removed, dried and stored in packets, rather than canopic
jars, and returned to his body cavity. His heart was left in place for religious
reasons. More than a dozen magic amulets or scarabs were strategically placed on
the body in hopes he would be cured and remain intact for the next life. It's
theorized that he died from an infectious disease, but the cause of death has
yet to be confirmed.
"These embalmers, who made the incision and pulled out organs, understood
where the heart was located and knew not to remove it," Dreyfus marvels. "The
heart had to remain in place because it was believed to be the seat of knowledge
and memory. It needed to be there to speak for you in the hall of judgment. The
ancient Egyptians believed that the heart would be weighed against the feather
of truth and justice. If your heart was heavy, then it was thrown to a monster
to devour, and you would be left with oblivion. But if your heart was light and
balanced the feather, you'd be on your path to a wonderful afterworld."
The ancient Egyptians built the pyramids, erected colossal temples and
crafted exquisite works of art, but would they and their elaborate belief system
exert as mesmerizing a hold on the modern imagination if their mummies hadn't
"They created numerous wonders that have captivated Western civilization, but
the mummies are the most powerful evocation of immortality itself," Elias says,
and pique intense curiosity. "There's something about a wrapped package; we
become obsessed with finding out what's inside. These beings are still with us,
while everything else has deteriorated. The architecture is amazing, and the
Egyptian aesthetic is beautiful, but the mummies are the bow on a package from a
past world."
As for Irethorrou, he's spending his après twilight years on display in a
museum thousands of years after his death. "I have a feeling he wouldn't have
minded," Dreyfus speculates. "To speak the name of the dead is to make them live
again, and he's living on."

"Very Postmortem:
Mummies and Medicine"

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