Symposium 14: From autopsy to diagnostic imaging and metagenomics: guidelines, levels of evidence and medical data (Aug 12, 2016)

10-13 AUGUST 2016  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Symposium 14: From autopsy to diagnostic imaging and metagenomics: guidelines, levels of evidence and medical data

Chairs: Frank J. Rühli, Raffaella Bianucci, Dong Hoon Shin
Time: 9:10 am - 1:00 pm
Empresarial Room, 2nd floor

(1) 9:10 Stephanie Zesch, Stephanie Panzer, Thomas Henzler, Stefan O. Schoenberg, Wilfried Rosendahl: From first to latest imaging technology - revisiting the first mummy investigated with X-rays in1896 by using dual-energy computed tomography. (Not confirmed)

(2) 9:30 Frank Rühli, Francesco Galassi, Lena Oehrstroem: Diagnostic imaging of ancient human mummies: Experiences at the Swiss Mummy Project. (Presented by Roger Seiler) (confirmed)

(3) 9:50 Niels Lynnerup, Chiara Villa: Evolution of methods: 30 years of researching the Greenland mummies. (confirmed)

(4) 10:10 Roger Seiler, Frank Rühli: Conventional radiography of ancient Egyptian mummy heads. A report of personal experiences (confirmed).


(5) 11:00 Abigail Bouwman, Michael Habicht, Frank Rühli: Preliminary results from the Canopic Jar Project (confirmed).

(6) 11:20 Sahar Saleem, Zahi Hawass: Computed Tomography (CT) studies of the Royal Egyptian Mummies of the New Kingdom (confirmed)

(8) 11:40 Robert Loynes: Mummification/embalming methods in the Roman period (confirmed).

12:00  Discussion


(4) Conventional radiography of ancient Egyptian mummy heads. A report of personal experiences.

Roger Seiler, Frank Rühli

University of Zurich

In the time of the CT scans with their outstanding imaging possibilities, one can forget that conventional radiography has its place in the study of Egyptian mummies. We will report our experiences in the application of a digital, portable X-ray unit in the field. For better understanding, background into the history and development of radiography in Mummy research will be presented, standard types of radiological projections used in skull investigations and how these protocols are modified to the special needs of mummy heads will be discussed. Examples of X-ray images of Egyptian mummy heads will demonstrate the ongoing possibilities of conventional radiography, but also its limits. The two-dimensional imaging of the skull with its complex three-dimensional structures, through the so-called “anatomical noise”, offers particular interpretational difficulties. On the other hand, it must be remembered that under adverse conditions and in unusual places, such as burial chambers or in a museum, X-ray is the only possibility to obtain internal images and so to fully investigate mummies. Therefore, we will discuss the taking of conventional X-rays of dentitions, jaws and the skull base. Of special interest to us are the characteristic defects in the context of the excerebration or mummification. Comparisons with CT scans will allow us to reassess the conventional, two-dimensional X-ray images.

(5) Preliminary results from the Canopic Jar Project.

Abigail Bouwman, Michael Habicht, Frank Rühli

University of Zurich

The Canopic Jar Project is an SNF funded project that is examining a larger series of ancient Egyptian human soft tissues samples in a truly interdisciplinary research setting (medical, genetic, chemical and Egyptological) from canopic jars and bundles in European and American museum collections.

The project is macroscopically, radiographically, chemically and genetically studying canopics to investigate the contents. All canopics are studied with X-ray and, where possible, by CT-scan, in order to investigate the contents prior to sampling.

Samples which are extracted from the canopics undergo; 1) histological examination – to identify the organ interred, assess the preservation of the sample and identify any pathological tissue, 2) molecular examination – to assess DNA preservation, identify the individual, examine the genetic relationship between pathogens and hosts, assess co-infection and investigate ancient microbiomes, and 3) chemical analysis – to identify the components used in the embalming process.

This presentation will concentrate on the first genetic data from the study. Although the material is heavily degraded by both time and the chemical preservation of the organs, DNA can be extracted and subjected to analysis. We have recovered mitochrondrial and autosomal DNA by traditional methods. The initial genetic data will be discussed within the context of the radiological, morphological, and chemical data.


Robert Loynes

 The University of Manchester, KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology

Examination of the CT scans of thirty human mummies from the Roman Period reveals that there are common features (indicating deliberate intent) distinguishing them from mummies of other eras.  This is in contrast to the view taken by authors such as Ikram & Dodson, David and Aufterheide (Ikram S. & Dodson A., 1998:129), (David.A.R., 2002: 337) &( Aufterheide A.C., 2003: 248) that mummification techniques in this era may have become more casual and random , accompanying the increase in the attention paid to and the sophistication of the external appearance of these artifacts.

There is a definite repetition of the techniques applied to the rib cage resulting in distortion and compression of this anatomical region in many cases accompanied by damage to the integrity of the rib cage/spine continuum.  There are certain notable deviations from these observed techniques but these may well be explained when the external characteristics– that is the wrapping techniques – or age at death of the individual are taken into account.  The cohort splits well into those with Red Shrouds, those with all four limbs wrapped separately and those with neither of these characteristics.

Although this phenomenon has been described previously (Loynes R, 2014: 231-3) the increased cohort size – to thirty – makes the observations and interpretation more robust whilst not altering the original proposition.


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