Two-thousand years ago grieving Egyptian parents put their young child to rest in the customary manner: they removed all of the youth’s organs except for the heart, packed the remains in salt to cure them, and wrapped them in linen coated with perfumed resin. They were certain that their careful efforts would allow their little one to come back to life someday.
Yesterday at the headquarters of Silicon Graphics in Silicon Valley, a team of experts somewhat proved that belief true, as they, equipped with the most detailed 3D models ever created of a mummy, demonstrated how 60,000 high-resolution 2D scans helped them “return” the mummy to its original form without disturbing its delicate physical remains.
Curators at San Jose’s Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium, which has housed the mummy since about 1930, named the child Sherit, ancient Egyptian for “little one,” and after conducting detailed analyses of several areas — including the hands, teeth, feet, skull, groin, spine and chest plate — researchers were able to arrive several conclusions about the mummy, including:
Sherit was a female who was between 4½ and 5½ years old when she died.
Her remains show no signs of injury, which suggests she likely died from a common intestinal illness or other disease (half of all Egyptian children died before their fifth year).
Scented resin was mixed and applied on the mummy’s golden face mask, a sign that her family was wealthy.
After digitally modeling her skull from CT data, a team of scientists led by reconstructive surgeon Stephen Schendel, MD, DDS, professor of surgery at Stanford, displayed a physical replica precisely constructed to match the girl’s actual skull. Using that physical model, which was created by Medical Modeling Inc. of Golden, Colo., along with clues derived from studying one of her still-intact ears and knowledge of facial characteristics common to Egyptian children, the team created a startling clay bust of the little girl’s face (see the video link above).
For the project, radiologists at Stanford University School of Medicine used an AXIOM Siemens scanner, one of only five CT scanners in the world capable of producing such high-resolution images. Stanford’s scanner generated 2D slices as thin as 200 microns, several times thinner than the 750-micron slices used to create the popular 3D visualization of King Tutankhamen’s mummy. Stanford Radiology’s child mummy scans generated nearly 35-times more information than the scans conducted on King Tut, erasing, in a sense, the passage of 20 centuries in the process.