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Can new technology solve mummy mystery?

It is by far the most popular feature of the Fleming Museum Collection -- a mummy purchased in Egypt in 1905 by then-curator Dean George Henry Perkins.

13886371_BG1"We know she is from the third intermediate period, the 25th dynasty, which makes her about 2,700 years old, but at the time of her death she was 10 to 14 years old; a young woman, possibly a servant to a more well-to-do family," said Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, the present-day curator at the Fleming.

An X-ray of the mummy taken in 1937 revealed her wisdom teeth had not descended, proving she was in her early teens. But that was all the forensic work that had been done-- until now. Radiologists at Fletcher Allen Health Care wanted to learn more, so they suggested a CT scan of the mummy; using cutting-edge technology to provide a 3-D picture. But how to unravel the mystery without unraveling the mummy?

"And we were joking about karma and about how we needed to be respectful about the mummy," Marcereau DeGalan said, "and the very next week when we were supposed to have the meeting about her, the radiologist was hit by a car. The morning of the meeting."

13886371_BG3Radiologist Jason Johnson is OK, and led the meeting which included an anthropologist, forensic dentist, medical examiner and museum staff. The focus was on a possible cause of death; a fracture of the mummy's skull.

"So this could kill you today this type of fracture," Johnson said. "As far as one of the things I was curious about-- OK, let's say this fracture happened after she died, how did they crack her skull? How much force had to be applied?"

There will be more meetings to go over more images of the almost 3,000-year-old teenager, to learn more about this mystery mummy. More than 30,000 scans were made of the mummy and the hope is someday to make those scans part of the display.

According to the museum, Fletcher Allen paid for the CT scan and all of the experts involved have volunteered their time. UVM also pitched in as well.

Author: Judy Simpson | Source: WCAX News [January 21, 2011]


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