Penn Museum Assembles "Anatomy of a Mummy"

Stephanie Huang, for GPA -- Four years ago a team of scholars was brought together in the Penn Museum (3260 South St.) public symposium to discuss a range of questions regarding a fascinating and unique topic: Mummies.

Dr. Janet Monget, Penn Museum Curator of Physical Anthropology, was responsible for the congregation of these individuals. As a result of her efforts, scientific knowledge of mummies, now an interdisciplinary study, has grown significantly.

Employing state of the art scientific techniques such as CT scans, MRI and endoscopy and a newly developed technologies – Terahertz MRI imaging, Dr. Monge and her team were able to produce 26 research articles, as well as a special issue entitled “The Anatomy of the Mummy” in The Anatomical Record.

“The Anatomy of the Mummy explores the challenges and emerging techniques for studying mummies under varied conditions of preservation including natural and artificial mummification as well as bodies preserved in bogs,” said Monge. “In addition to discussions of ethical practice and disease patterns in past human populations, authors discuss best practices of mummy conservation for future generations These wide ranging topics will interest those in many fields ranging from anthropology to zoology.”

The global diversity of the mummies studied is vast, ranging from Egypt, New Guinea and Denmark to Korea, Sicily, Greenland and Peru. The mummies examined greatly contributed to the development of a future mummy database.

Showcasing the historical background of our preserved ancestors, specifically the infamous mummy, PUM I, autopsied over 40 years ago, the Penn Museum offers the public lab and exhibition, “In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies,” for viewing. In addition, an information session focusing on the novelties of high-resolution scanning, entitled “A Critical Look at Mummy CT Scanning”, will be offered as well.

Image courtesy of the Penn Museum.