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Experts reveal new images, analyses of Spurlock Museum mummy

Sarah Wisseman
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L. Brian Stauffer

A team of medical experts and researchers will present new findings on the Spurlock Museum mummy at a symposium at the museum on Nov. 2. Sarah Wisseman, the director of the Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey and the author of “The Virtual Mummy,” led the effort and will introduce the event.

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10/18/2011 | Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor | 217-333-5802; diya@illinois.edu

CHAMPAIGN, lll. — In 1990, a team of researchers and medical experts placed an ancient Egyptian mummy into a computed tomography (CT) scanner at a hospital in Central Illinois, hoping to learn what they could about the individual shrouded inside its linen cocoon. Those scans, along with X-rays and analyses of fragments collected from the fraying base of the mummy, revealed that it was a child from a wealthy family, likely from the Roman period of ancient Egypt.

mummy in CT scanner
The Spurlock Museum mummy returned to Carle Clinic for a much-improved CT scan from the one performed in 1990. | Photo Melissa Sotelo, Spurlock Museum

The mummy belongs to the Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois, and the researchers were allowed to study it on the condition that they not damage the wrappings or the body. Earlier this year, the team scanned the mummy again using much-improved radiographic techniques. The team will reveal its findings in a symposium on Nov. 2.

“The Return of the Mummy: New Imaging Results on the Spurlock Museum’s Egyptian Mummy” will be the most thorough public presentation yet of the many types of evidence collected in 1990 and again in 2011. The symposium will begin at 4 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the museum at 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana. Admission is free.

Dr. Joseph Barkmeier, medical director of diagnostic services at Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Physician Group in Urbana, conducted the CT scans in 1990 and again this year.

The scans (donated by Carle) enabled researchers to view a three-dimensional reconstruction of the body on a computer. Some of the scans will be on view at the symposium, along with the actual mummy, facial reconstructions, and images and analyses of the materials used in the embalming process.

In addition to Barkmeier, speakers at the event will include David Hunt, of the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution; Dr. Allan Campbell, clinical professor of pathology and dermatology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria; Emily Teeter, a research associate at the Oriental Institute museum, University of Chicago; Carter Lupton, curator of ancient history at the Milwaukee Public Museum; and Sarah Wisseman, the director of the Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials (ATAM), Illinois State Archaeological Survey. (The survey is part of the Prairie Research Institute at Illinois.)

Wisseman coordinated the first mummy study in 1990–1991 and is the author of “The Virtual Mummy,” a book that documents the research. The symposium is co-sponsored by ATAM and the Dr. Allan C. Campbell Family Distinguished Speaker Series, with research funded in part through the Richard and Barbara Faletti Gallery of African Cultures Fund.

Editor's note: To contact Sarah Wisseman, call 217-355-0757; email wisarc@illinois.edu. More information about the symposium is available here.
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