The mummified human remains of a boy from the Graeco-Roman Period who is about to be CT scanned at Blackheath Hospital, London (BMI Healthcare), in a session organised by Janet Davey. The boy is approximately seven years old and has gold leaf decoration on his face and body. Subsequent CT scan data provided precise anatomical information to assist in determining sex, age and conditions within the body.
Image courtesy of BMI Healthcare/Blackheath Hospital and Toshiba UK
A very small boy from the Graeco-Roman Period of ancient Egypt, adorned with extensive gold leaf decoration on the face and body. The reason for this decoration is unknown. The child has fair hair and eyelashes, suggesting that he may be of foreign extraction rather than ancient Egyptian.
A scan of an ancient Egyptian child's mummified body has revealed what could be the terrible secret of a murder committed more than 2,000 years ago
Scientists were intrigued to discover a spear-like object within the upper spine and skull of the mummy, but are unsure whether the implement killed the child, or if it is simply an example of improvised embalming.
"It was certainly a 'wow' moment," said Ellen James, spokesman for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. "But it's not known if the embalmers did that to keep the head steady in the sarcophagus."
The CAT scan performed at the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh also revealed that the child lived at some point between 380 BC and 250 BC and was probably between three and five years old, which is younger than previously thought
Scans are increasingly popular as a non-intrusive method of gathering information about mummies. "There were no complaints from the patient either," said Miss James.
An earlier scan had showed that the child had an unusually large head. The follow-up, carried out with more up-to-date equipment, was hoping to explain the malformation, but researchers have still not discovered its cause and also remain unable to confirm the sex of the deceased youngster.
However, such good images of bone structure have been obtained that they hope to eventually a put a facial reconstruction of the child on display at the museum.
In 2005 a CAT scan on Tutankhamun dampened decades of speculation that the ancient king had been killed by foul play. Instead, the likeliest explanation for the suspicious hole in the back of his head is that it was drilled by embalmers.
The Pittsburgh mummy, which has been on display since 1989, dates back to the Ptolemaic dynasty, whose most famous member was Cleopatra. In the Victorian era mummies were so common that aristocrats were said to have unwrapped them for parlour entertainment, while novelty teas were made from the wrappings.
North American museums were also heavily involved in the rush for mummies which were continually being unearthed during the period. The remains of what may be Rameses I ended up in a "daredevil museum" near Niagara Falls, after having being bought, possibly from grave robbers, in 1860.
A museum in Atlanta later determined the body to have been royal and returned it to Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities