National Geographic : 2010 Jan
PHOTOS: COURTESY ORIENTAL INSTITUTE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO TECHNOLOGY Mummies Bare All The plump neck on mummy Meresamun (right) made scientists think she had a goiter. Then they examined her with a high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scan and learned the truth: Her mummifiers had inserted a bit of stuffing to enlarge the Theban priestess' neck. Opening a sealed sarcophagus can destroy the mummy inside, but medical technologies allow experts to peer in without risk. X-rays have long been used for this purpose, though results aren't always reliable. CT scans, now so powerful they can reveal 3-D slices half a millimeter thick, are clear- ing up years of uncertainty. Scientists have been able to pinpoint mummies' ages at death and see how status resulted in higher quality mum- mification. Medical imaging has turned up evidence of an ancient gallstone (once thought to be a scarab), cancer, even teeth grinding. Nothing was as surprising as the outcome of the high- tech analysis of a 2,700-year- old mummy from the Brooklyn Museum. "You told me this one was a woman!" the radiologist at New York's North Shore University Hospital said. Just like that, the mummy known for 80-plus years as the Lady Hor became a sir. ---Hannah Bloch INSIDE THE COFFIN Thirty billion CT measurements are uncovering details about the priestess Meresamun (right), who died around age 30 in 800 B.C. Childbearing Hips? Scan results are inconclu- sive as to whether she had children. No Cavities A CT scan showed cavity- free teeth. Stones or faience pieces cover her eyes. Good Legs Strong bones are evidence of her healthy diet and active lifestyle. Foot Trouble A 2,800-year- old bunion showed up on her right big toe.