Mummification Methods

A question that is important regarding mummified remains is that of determining through paleoimaging and other available evidence if artificial mummification was practiced versus natural mummification. The VE can collect data that may be useful in determining whether or not an individual mummy or a group of mummies were prepared for the afterlife or if the preserved body was a result of natural drying forces. One question that is not easily answered by conventional radiography is whether or not internal organs were removed. Naturally dried internal organs lose their density from dehydration and are not well demonstrated on x-ray. The VE can peer into body cavities and "see" organ remnants that were questionable or invisible on the radiograph (Figure 4.23). Additional body treatments can be seen using the VE, such as sutures and cut marks if the head was removed in order to remove the brain. Radiography may only show that the head is disarticulated but not necessarily indicate how it was disarticulated. Regarding Egyptian mummification practices, many times the cribriform portion of the ethmoid bone (Figure 4.24) has been manipulated or fractured to provide cranial access. Videoendoscopy can examine the details of this procedure, and the results can be compared to other imaging data (Figure 4.25) such as standard radiography and CT scans. In one such study (Nelson et al. 2007), we discovered unique cranial vault access variations among several Egyptian mummies using both endoscopic and CT images. Any packets holding the mummified organs that had been removed during the mummification process and then wrapped and placed back in the body of the mummy can be endoscopically visualized and imaged. External

Figure 4.23 Videoendoscopic image of internal organ remnants not seen on radiograph.
Figure 4.24 Videoendoscopic images of intact crista galli and the cribriform plate. These structures are usually destroyed during brain removal associated with some Egyptian mummification.

and internal body cavity surface features can be visualized endoscopically to determine if treatments with ointments or oils were used. Not only can the VE assist with determining whether or not artificial mummification was practiced, but a general assessment of the state of internal preservation can be made at the same time.

Figure 4.25 (See color insert following page 12.) Videoendoscopic images of the brain removal entry point in Palb (left panels). Coronal section CT scan showing the opening into the cranial vault and a 3D reconstruction further demonstrating the entry point (right panels).

Figure 4.26 Videoendoscopic images assisting in the age at death determination. Top left— Open fontanel. Top center—Auricular surface wear. Top right—Segmented sternum. Bottom left—Internal table cranial suture fusing. Bottom center—Palatine suture fusing. Bottom right—Symphysis pubis wear.

Figure 4.26 Videoendoscopic images assisting in the age at death determination. Top left— Open fontanel. Top center—Auricular surface wear. Top right—Segmented sternum. Bottom left—Internal table cranial suture fusing. Bottom center—Palatine suture fusing. Bottom right—Symphysis pubis wear.

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