- Associated Press - Monday, August 31, 2015

SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) - Before any other patients arrived, a white van pulled up to a back door at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital.

A crew unloaded two elderly women, eased them onto hospital gurneys and wheeled them inside.

The women were there for the same procedure, but there was no hurry. Both have been dead for more than 1,900 years, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1Vbp0A4 ) reported.

The two patients were mummies from the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.

Radiologists at the hospital performed CT scans in hopes of giving researchers a look under the mummies’ wrappings.

“Getting access to this data is invaluable for us,” said Dane Pollei, the museum’s director and chief curator, who hopes the scans will help scientists fill in some of the blanks in the two women’s biographies.

Both mummies come from the Fayum region in northern Egypt. The older of the two, Tutu, died in about 332 B.C. Scientists think she was in her 40s or 50s when she died. Researchers think the other, unnamed woman died during the 2nd century A.D., during the period when Egypt had fallen under Roman rule. She likely died in her 20s or 30s.

When they arrived at the hospital, the mummies’ handlers wheeled them in the door, down a back hallway and into the CT scan room. One at a time, they picked them up and placed them gently onto the scanner. Scientists and hospital staff packed the room and watched excitedly as images of the mummies’ insides blinked onto a computer screen.

A team of several scientists across the country will review images from the scan over the next few weeks, Pollei said. A doctor might be able to help shed light on the women’s health before they died, he said. A forensic anthropologist may be able to gain information about their lives from the conditions of their bones. Other anthropologists will look at how the women were mummified to try to determine other factors, like social status, he said.

“It may confirm what we know, or we may learn new things,” Pollei said.

The recent visit wasn’t the two mummies’ first trip to the hospital. Radiologists X-rayed the mummies in 1991, said Ryan Skinner, a St. Anthony radiologist. Although those images were helpful at the time, they didn’t provide much information, Skinner said. They showed no obvious signs of trauma, he said, and offered no other clues about who the women were or how they died.

“The X-rays were not very good quality, honestly,” Skinner said.

Researchers hope the recent CT scans will be more fruitful. Unlike X-rays, which provide only flat images, CT scans offer a series of cross-sectional views of the mummy, giving researchers a three-dimensional look at what’s under the wrapping. They also allow hospital staff to create reconstructions of the mummy’s body and face.

Looking inside the mummies can offer clues about who they were, when they lived and how they died, said Delaynna Trim, the museum’s curator of collections.

Scans show evidence of how the bodies were handled, including whether internal organs were removed and whether the person was buried with amulets or other artifacts, Trim said.

For example, previous scans showed that Tutu’s internal organs were removed from her body, bound individually and returned to her body cavity. That, combined with the fact that her arms were crossed before she was buried, likely indicate higher social class, she said.

Earlier scans of the Roman-era mummy show her organs were left unwrapped in her body, Trim said. That could indicate low social class, she said, but the practice of removing and wrapping organs also was less common during that era.

The woman’s bones had signs of malnutrition, leading researchers to believe she was of lower social status than Tutu, Trim said.

“We know that her life was much more difficult,” she said.

There are other indications of social status. Tutu was buried in an ornately decorated mask and breastplate. The Roman-era mummy had neither, and was buried only in her linen wrappings.

The wrappings themselves also can tell scientists something about the person, said Robert Pickering, a University of Tulsa anthropologist. It took about 400 yards of linen to wrap a mummy, he said, so most people made or accumulated linen throughout their adult lives for their own burial. The quality of the linen can offer clues about the person’s social stature, he said.

Tutu, for example, is wrapped in several pieces of linen of varying quality, Pickering said. That indicates that despite her high standing, she probably wasn’t royalty, he said, since royal mummies would have been wrapped entirely in high-quality cloth.

That kind of information - and anything else the scans turn up - will give researchers a better understanding and museumgoers a richer experience, he said.

“Each new mummy tells its own story,” Pickering said.

___

Information from: The Shawnee News-Star, https://www.news-star.com


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