Welcome to the Mummy Blog!

Why mummies? What can we learn about ancient people from well-preserved human remains? Why should we care? Come explore the world of mummies and all their spin-offs (museum exhibits, movies, books....)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meet Lazarus, the Mummy Who Will Never Die

My husband nicknamed our local Egyptian mummy "Lazarus" because it keeps coming back to haunt me. Twenty years ago, I led a team at the University of Illinois in a largely non-destructive examination of a Roman-period Egyptian mummy. We X-rayed it, CT scanned it, studied snips and bits from its deteriorated lower end, and wrote it all up for an exhibit at the World Heritage, now the Spurlock, Museum on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Results: the mummy is a child from a well-to-do family living in the Fayum oasis district of Egypt. He (or she) had a broken head and a collapsed chest, but these injuries could have been from mishandling after death. Images showed packing material (cloth or mud?) around the limbs, and a wooden "stiffening" board under the body inside the linen and ramie wrappings.

In March 2011, we re-CT scanned the mummy at the same hospital, Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, IL, to see if modern imaging technology could answer lingering questions about the mummy child's sex, cause of death, and the packing around its body. A DNA test from a foot bone is in progress, but the result may not tell us whether the mummy was a boy or a girl unless we are awfully lucky (ancient DNA samples tend to be contaminated). Still, we have exciting new images of the mummy's insides to show, and some new information about the condition of the body.

All will be revealed at a symposium, "The Return of the Mummy," on Wednesday, November 2, 2011, at the Spurlock Museum auditorium. A panel of experts including an archaeologist, a physical anthropologist, two Egyptologists, and two physicians will discuss the latest results on our mummy and how this mummy study compares to others conducted at other universities. Time: 4 pm, free admission. Address:  600 S. Gregory St., Urbana, IL

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