CHICAGO (CBS) — Researchers from the University of Chicago performed CT scans on Tuesday to learn the secrets of two mummies that have been in the possession of the Oriental Institute for more than 100 years.
Radiologists at the University of Chicago Medicine’s Center for Care and Discovery used a series of X-ray images to digitally unwrap the mummies, which are both more than 2,000 years old.
“This technology allows us to find out all about the mummy, leaving it completely untouched,” said Emily Teeter, an Egyptologist at the Oriental Institute Museum.
Teeter said the images can tell researchers about a person’s lifestyle and health.
“It sort of bridges the centuries, because these are individuals who lived thousands of years ago. They are real people, and we’re looking at who they were, trying to reconstruct their life, and according to the Egyptian theology, really we’re bringing them back to life by paying attention to them and speaking their name,” she said. “This mummy we’re looking at right now has a lot of linen. Linen was very expensive in ancient Egypt, and so this man comes from a wealthy background.”
During a scan of the mummy of Petosiris, which dates back to 350 B.C. Teeter and a radiologist remarked about his phallus.
“Very often, male mummies are buried with some sort of support for the phallus to make them look more robust,” she said. “He was sent off in good style for eternity.”
The other mummy was even older – about 2,800 years old – and until the CT scans, they did not even know it’s a female.
Teeter said using CT scans allows researchers to essentially unwrap the mummies without actually damaging them.
“In the old days, people would actually unwrap them, which destroys the evidence, and this technology allows us to find out all about the mummy, leaving it completely untouched,” she said.