Published On Sep 12, 2016
Imaging the Past
Mummies give up new secrets with the help of cutting-edge medical imaging tools.
The past is fragile, but medical imaging tools can bring it carefully into the present. These images of a 1,300-year-old woman were created for an exhibition at the British Museum in 2014. A computed tomography scanner generated thousands of cross-sectional images of the remains, which were naturally mummified in the arid heat of Sudan. Those pictures were then stitched together to create these 3-D visualizations. Advances in medical imaging continue to benefit archaeologists. In August 2016, researchers began to use a new type of CT scan called atomic number imaging to analyze chemical traits in mummies’ muscles and bones. The technology can determine whether someone died of a particular disease or identify the materials used for amulets and jewelry, offering a more intimate look at how people in the ancient world lived and died.