CT scans can determine the age, sex, and cause of death without disturbing mummified remains. They give scientists a lot of information, and recently, CT scans discovered murder. While studying three mummies in European museums, scientists found that two of the three were likely murdered. One mummy has a stab wound to the chest and skull damage. Another has both healed injuries to the skull but also lethal ones, along with a dislocated spine. The third body showed heavy damage too, but it most likely happened after death—maybe when archaeologists transported the mummy to Europe.
The bodies originated in Peru and Chile. European museums housed the remains since the 19th century. The three people died between the years 900 and 1300. None of the murdered mummies had been the target of thorough investigation before. Scientists previously labeled one as female even though it is clearly male. We saw the research on Gizmodo. The peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Medicine published the research article. It includes many other CT images and details of the remains, including brain matter, internal organs, and soft tissues.
CT scans are a relatively recent addition to the archaeologist’s toolkit. The images help scientists find hidden details without disturbing the bodies any further. They can reveal injuries and the provide the ability to see signs of healing versus trauma that led to death. Mummies are also sometimes damaged after death, either during the mummification process or by grave robbers.
Scientists have found mummified remains dating back as far as 8,000 years in areas all over the world. Though most people associate mummies with Egypt, research also occurs in archaeological sites in Peru, Chile, and other parts of South America.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.