Beginning with the physical exam, the paleoimager is allowed time to become familiar with the challenges associated with the subject, human or nonhuman, under study. It is imperative that the paleoimager be familiar with the varied possible methods of mummification. Instrumentation and exposure variables are based on perceived densities. Different mummification methods provide different imaging challenges. For example, natural mummification, which occurs naturally or without any active attempt at mummification, may render a body with few or no internal organ systems present. Additionally, observing the position in which the individual was interred will make the paleoimager aware of the possibility of superimposition of images and help in the strategic planning of the study. Knowledge of the enclosure used to bury the remains is also important. An urn burial presents a different imaging challenge than does a textile-wrapped mummy or one in a coffin. An artificially prepared mummy, one that was intentionally prepared for preservation, poses unique imaging challenges as well. Egyptian mummies, for example, were often coated with resin, and that resin was often introduced into body cavities, markedly increasing the density.
The paleoimager should make a cursory assessment of the integrity of the subject to ascertain the feasibility of radiographic examination. Photographic documentation of features of interest discovered during visual inspection is required. During the initial visual inspection, the paleoimager may establish the instrumentation strategy and the radiation protection plan, which will be dictated by the subject, the physical space, and the research objectives.
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