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Photos courtesy of Andrew Nelson - A mummified domestic cat, goes in for a CT scan at the London Health Sciences Centre. Yes was mummified at the request of his owner and used to determine whether changes that happen to tissues are part of the pathological process or whether they’re related to mummification.A modern, domestic house cat is helping shed light on the practice of mummification and the lives of ancients, such as Ramses II, the most celebrated pharaoh of Egypt.
Emerging from a study looking to determine whether Ramses II had ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a chronic inflammatory disease of the spine which makes vertebrae look dense in radiographs, the study of Yes started when a graduate student asked Western professor Andrew Nelson to mummify his pet, who passed away from pancreatitis.
Since, Nelson, associate dean of research and operations in Western’s Department of Anthropology, and associate dean in the Faculty of Social Science, has led the Yes investigation, looking to determine whether changes that happen to tissues are part of the pathological process or related to mummification.
In other words, is the density of the vertebrae, observed in radiographs of Ramses II, indicative of him having suffered from AS? Or, is the density a result of the mummification process?
“We’re looking at the osteobiography of a mummy. We’re trying to tell the story of that person’s life through the analysis of bones and tissues; we want to get as accurate a picture of their life as we can, that we can properly diagnose the disease process and properly differentiate from (the mummification process),” Nelson explained.
Enter Yes, an interdisciplinary case study that was featured last week on the Discovery Channel’s The Daily Planet.
In what is the first long-term study of tissue changes during mummification using multimodal imaging techniques, Nelson and his research team started the process of mummifying Yes in 2004. The goal was to see what changes can be observed in tissues and how long it takes for such changes to occur.
Once mummification was complete, researchers examined Yes with MR (magnetic resonance) scans and clinical CT (computerized tomography) imaging, in order to see beneath the wrappings and observe changes to tissues over time. The use of a microCT scanner allowed Nelson’s research team to non-invasively examine the remains of Yes in the afterlife.
The results of the scans showed a rapid shrinking and a decrease in tissue density, Nelson said, noting the expectation was that tissues would increase in density, not get softer.
What this means, Nelson said, is that if we observe increased density in tissue of a mummy, researchers can be confident that it represents real physiological issues, ones not part of the mummification process.
“If we see something that is markedly more dense in a mummy, we can be sure it is pathology,” he said.
So, in this way, Yes has helped shed light on the life of Ramses II. While difficult to know for certain, it is possible the pharaoh had AS.
But that’s not the cat’s only contribution to researchers’ understanding of the mummification process.
While the team left Yes’ heart and brain intact, it was difficult to see any trace of the brain in the initial scans. The heart was, however, visible.
“The brain shrunk a lot and lobbed to the side of the cranial cavity,” Nelson said, noting it looked as if the brain was not actually there.
“Why we care about that is that brain removal was something the Egyptians did (in humans), though not all the time. The Egyptians mummified a lot of different animals. In (scans of animals where the brain is not visible), it could be that the brain is actually still there and you have to do more detailed imaging,” he continued.
“There’s a lot of discussion, whether Egyptians were treating animals differently. It appears that animals were not eviscerated in the same way – the brain was not removed. The few examples where (animals) have been held up and treated the same way as people, it’s important to look at them and ask is this some exception or are we mistaken in terms of that conclusion?”Contributing Source : Western University Canada HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
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Photo courtesy of Victoria Lywood – This image shows the face of a young Theban male, reconstructed thanks to a collaborative effort between the Redpath Museum’s World Cultures Collection at McGill University, Andrew Wade and Western’s IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database Project, the Engineering Department of John Abbott College and forensic artist Victoria Lywood.A postdoctoral fellow in Western’s Anthropology department, he has been working with a forensic artist from John Abbott College reconstructing the identities of three Egyptian mummies, laid to rest roughly 2,000 years ago.
Examined using state-of-the-art medical imaging technology, the skeletal data, computerized tomography (CT) scans and radiocarbon analyses of the mummies have helped reveal three ancient faces – a young man and a young woman, as well as a white-haired matron – as they may have looked prior to their deaths.
“(Even) with the skeletal material and CT scans, I didn’t have any idea what they’d look like,” Wade said, crediting the sketches of forensic artist Victoria Lywood for the end result. “It was amazing to see what they would look like as we got snapshots as the process went along.
“To meet these mummies face-to-face was just amazing.”
The reconstructions were a collaborative effort between the Redpath Museum’s World Cultures Collection at McGill University, Western’s IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database Project, the Engineering Department of John Abbott College and forensic artist Lywood. The results were unveiled last week at Redpath.
“These three (mummies) have been fascinating studies, contributing to our understanding of mummification,” Wade said. He noted the scans of these mummies and others help anthropologists understand how the tradition changed over time.
“The Theban male has packing in a large cavity in his teeth, and that’s unique so far in literature. It hints at ancient dental intervention practices,” he added.
The three mummies were scanned at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital in 2011 with some of the most sophisticated technology available, producing high-resolution 3D images. Aside from the fascinating case studies and a visceral connection to the past, Wade thinks it’s important to value and understand the scientific process behind it all.
“It’s extremely important to get the public involved in something relatable and have them see the mummies, and better understand how we come about doing this, the science about it and anthropological assessments and 3D printing,” he said.
“The stuff we do with mummies pushes the boundaries with technology. The public can get a lot out of it. It’s important to get the public involved and getting them to understand what we do is a large collaborative effort.”
Radiocarbon dating following the CT scans revealed the female Theban mummy is from the Late Roman Period (230-380 CE) and the Theban male mummy from the Ptolemaic Period (332-30 BCE). The hairstyle visible in scans of the third mummy indicates it is from the mid-Roman Period (96-161 CE).
Skeletal data from CT scans, along with revised historical context from radiocarbon analyses, helped the team create the facial reconstructions, while anthropological analyses of the scans has provided researchers with information relating to the demographics, social statuses and medical conditions during the lives of the three mummies, further informing opinions on how ancient Egyptians lived and died.
The reconstruction will be part of a new display in the World Cultures gallery at Redpath starting next month. The collection also features cat, crocodile and bird mummies.Contributing Source : Western University Canada
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