Computer Reconstruction of Ancient Mummies

Archeology today has nothing in common with early excavations. Archeology of the past was more looting than studying. The objects of value found made it to market and sold. Modern archeology stopped the displacement of artifacts so the entire scene holds its cultural and historic value.

Egypt mummification and the more than 5,000 years of recorded history in the region ranks Egypt its own classification of archeologist. Egyptologists study the ancient tombs and pyramids in hopes of learning the culture, health and everyday lives these people lived. Looting and grave robbing of the pyramids started during a period of famine in Egypt. The robbers more than likely knew the royal inside personally. These raids on the wealth left inside the mummy’s wrapping left the body exposed, and they decomposed back into dust. Modern technology allows science to reconstruct the person inside the wraps without disturbing them.

CAT scans are able to take 3-D x-rays of mummies. These x-rays are stored in a computer and, when ready, pieced together like a puzzle. The images taken are thin slices and reconstructed one layer at a time. The completed picture shows the body inside and, with digital imaging, an actual face appears.

The biggest advantage to 3-D reconstruction lies in the thin slices. Each gives an insight into the health of the person. Some mummies show healed injuries to bones and soft tissue. Other images point to diseases like malaria inflicting the person. A look at bone and teeth shows how nutritious their diet was. These people had a life span of 35 to 45 years and their body structure was much smaller than people today. The use of 3-D imaging tells science why they were smaller and why they lived such short lives.

Computer reconstruction lets scientists see all of these important factors without touching the actual mummy. The bodies come from their tombs or shelves in the museum, are scanned and returned to their resting places. Recent examination of King Tutankhamen’s remains showed the boy king cut in half when archeologists removed him from his coffin. The discomposure made moving the small mummy dangerous, and no one knows where some of his remains were.

The modern use of CT scanning greatly increases science’s knowledge of ancient people’s lifestyles and nutrition. The bodies are left intact and returned to their tombs where they belong, leaving these precious artifacts their dignity so a whole picture is brought to life once the scans and models are complete. This is a wonderful science.