Judith E. Adams
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Scientific studies of pharaonic remains
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Imaging has played a significant role in the non-destructive scientific study of both human and animal Egyptian mummified remains since soon after Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays in 1895. Initially radiographs were used which had the advantages of being widely available and relatively inexpensive but the limitation of being a 2D image with overlap of structures. Since the introduction of computed tomography (CT) in the mid-1970s and the subsequent technical developments of spiral, multi-detector capabilities (MDCT) which now provide rapidly acquired (20-30 seconds), thin (0.6mm) transverse axial images with improved spatial resolution which are able to be manipulated to provide 3D volumetric images and quantitative (densities from attenuation values [Hounsfield units HU], size etc.) measurements, this is now the most widely applied imaging method. As mummified tissue is desiccated the imaging techniques which depend on hydrated tissue (ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging) are not applicable. In human mummies methods of mummification can be determined (wrappings, amulets, state of body), as can age, height and gender of skeletal remains, methods of ex-cerebration, support of the body (rods) and presence of disease. Animals were mummified for various reasons (worshipped as cult animals, as offerings to the gods [votive], as pets or as food [victual]), the most common being as votive offerings. Imaging can confirm an animal skeleton is or is not (pseudo-mummy) present in the mummy bundle and from the skeletal characteristics can confirm the type of animal. Technical aspects of applying imaging to the scientific study of such artefacts are described.

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