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The Field Museum Uses CT Scans to Visualize Egyptian and Peruvian Mummies

Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians and Peruvians would mummify the dead as a way to honor them and prepare them for the afterlife. For centuries, scientists were stumped as to how to examine mummies and their physical properties without unwrapping the body. Yet, in the decade, researchers at both the Field Museum in Chicago and the American Museum of National History have been using CT scans to observe the mummies’ anatomy in a non-invasive way.

1977 was the first year a mummy was analyzed via CT scan, a mere two years later after the medical technology was invented. According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, the first CT scanning endeavors lacked comprehensive results. The Field took further strides to improve the images by bringing the scanners into the museum to avoid any complications that might arise with moving the bodies. They then brought on artists who used the scans of the skulls to create thorough renderings of the mummies’ faces.

In one mummy, a middle-aged woman named the “Gilded Lady”, researchers found she had an overbite and curly hair. “Minirdis,” another mummy, was actually living in a recycled coffin. Visitors are guided through various layers of the mummy — from the skin, bones, to the organs and the various artifacts in the mummy’s casket. The exhibition opened this March and will close in January 2018.


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