A Medical Device Daily

Siemens Medical Solutions (Malvern, Pennsylvania), together with the National Geographic Society (NGS; Washington), is supporting a research project on mummies by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (Cairo).

The project's purpose is conservation of the mummies and, at the same time, the study of health and disease in ancient Egypt. NGS and Siemens therefore have donated a computed tomography (CT) system, mounted in a trailer.

It is planned, during a three- to five-year period, to scan mummies that are still found in Egypt, which spanned a period of 3,000 years, starting 5,000 years ago. Today, they serve as a window into the past. It will be possible not only to investigate diseases of antiquity, but also to provide important information for conservation of the mummies and to clarify many questions in Egyptology.

The CT system donated for the project, the Somatom Emotion 6, provides important prerequisites for this study, Siemens said. It combines advanced imaging capabilities with minimal sitting requirements.

Because of its wide opening, it enables positioning of the mummies without difficulty. Also, it is capable of displaying the finest details in 3-D imaging, according to Siemens. “CT technology enables us to virtually 'unwrap' the mummies without damaging them,“ said Zahi Hawass, PhD, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. “The system is installed in a trailer so we can do 'house calls' and don't need to transport our patients.“

The research project will be headed by Hawass. A team of Egyptian scientists operates the CT system.

One of the highlights of the research project was the recent scan of the mummy of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, to explore what killed the king who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago and died as a teenager. Tutankhamen is famous because his tomb, discovered in 1922 in the Valley of Kings, was almost untouched and filled with unbelievable treasures.

In 1968, an X-ray revealed a chip of bone in his skull. This discovery, and the circumstances of his death, hurried mummification and burial, led to speculations that Tutankhamen might have been killed by a blow to the head.

“Even today, ancient Egypt exerts great fascination with everybody, and research results are producing interest within the public,“ said Bernd Montag, PhD, president of the CT Division of Siemens Medical Solutions. “On top of ongoing research, a project so unique in scope and vision represents a milestone in Egyptology. We are proud to support the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities in their effort to unveil some of the mysteries of the past."