Swedish technology solves mummy mystery
Published: 17 Nov 2012 12:25 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Nov 2012 12:25 GMT+01:00
A virtual post mortem has revealed that the Gebelein Man, a 5,500-year-old Egyptian mummy kept at the British Museum in London for over a century, was probably stabbed in the back with a sharp weapon.
Using technology from Sweden, researchers were able to create three-dimensional x-ray images to study the Gebelein Man's skeleton and internal organs in great detail.
"There's a wound on the surface of his skin, which people have been able to see for the last 100 years, but it's only through looking inside his body we've seen that his shoulder blade is damaged and the rib under the shoulder blade is also damaged," the British Museum's curator of physical anthropology, Dr Daniel Antoine, told the BBC.
"All of this suggests a violent death," he added.
A London hospital first used a CAT scanner to capture x-ray images of the mummified body. The results were then put through a digital autopsy table that was developed by the Interactive Institute and Visualization Center C in Norrköping, central Sweden.
The technology made it possible to expose the mummy's skeleton and make virtual slices in order to explore his internal organs and brain, which are still present.
"We can lift off layer after layer, examine different body parts and twist and turn the body to see it from different angles," Thomas Rydell, who developed the three-dimensional autopsy table, told Sveriges Television (SVT).
The autopsy table will remain at the British Museum until December 16th this year, allowing visitors to examine the ancient mummy's body and internal organs.
The mummified man was buried around 3500 BC at the site of Gebelein in Upper Egypt in accordance with the ancient Egyptian custom of placing the body in a contracted, foetal position. Around him were all the things he might need for his afterlife, including pottery to hold and serve food.
The mummy was discovered in 1896 and is one of the oldest in the British Museum's collection.