The decapitated head of an ancient Egyptian mummy, left in the dust in the attic of a now deceased doctor’s home in England, was put into a CT scanner that revealed it once belonged to a woman who lived 2,000 years ago.
Canterbury Christ Church University conducted preliminary scans that showed that his teeth were aging due to a demanding diet, his brain was removed and his tongue was still significantly preserved. Although researchers are unclear as to the origin of the head, they believe it was brought from Egypt in the 19th century as a souvenir and was recovered as an heirloom.
The theory stems from the popularity of mummies in the Victorian era. Back then, people were hosting ‘mummy opening parties’ where a group received food and drink while enjoying the process of unwrapping a mummified corpse.
The head was donated to the researchers in November 2020, and the first CT scan was done a year later. Now the team has uncovered new details of the head, such as the person’s gender and diet. The worn teeth show that the woman ate grains, a staple food among the ancient Egyptians.
The CT scan also revealed a type of tube inside the spinal canal and left nostril. “It is unknown whether the tubes are dated (Victorian) or ancient (Egyptian),” said James Elliott, lecturer in radiography.
The next part of this ongoing project is to re-analyze all scans in hopes of providing more details on pathology, trauma and dental condition. Elliot states that the team will try to find a way inside the head to carefully remove the brain.
“Ironically, the ancient Egyptians believed that a person’s mind was kept in the heart and had little respect for the brain,” he said.
‘Regardless of this, the brain was removed to help protect the individual.’ Ancient DNA and other tests, including carbon dating, are potential avenues of scientific investigation. The results will eventually be published in an academic journal and shared with the public.
After the team has learned everything they can, a reconstruction of the woman’s face will be performed. CT scanners have become a popular way to search for mummies. As in July, technology was used to determine the death of what was once known as the ‘mummy of the screaming woman’.
The woman was mummified with her head and mouth open, as if she was crying with fear. Egyptologists Zahi Hawass and Sahar Saleem, professors of radiology at Cairo University, used a CT scan to uncover what caused his death about 3,000 years ago to uncover the mystery.
The results show that he is suffering from a severe case of atherosclerosis affecting a number of his arteries. The location of the remains indicates that the woman was discovered long enough to develop death spasms, and embalmers preserved the body as it was found.