Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine

USA TODAY, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine


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ARCHAEOLOGY meets technology in "Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine" which opens, appropriately enough, on Halloween. at San Franciscos Legion of Honor Museum. This exhibition welcomes back to the Fine Arts Museums the mummy of Irethorrou. a priest from an important family who lived in Akhmim, Egypt. He died at a young age and was buried more than 2,500 years ago. The mummy had been on loan to the Haggin Museum in Stockton. Calif., for the last 65 years.

Using state of the art technology, the exhibit reveals Irethorrous long-held secrets through three-dimensional computed tomography (CT) scans conducted by the Stanford University Medical Schools Department of Radiology and presents a forensic portrait reconstructed by the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium. Harrisburg. Pa. "What were trying to do is merge science, culture, history. medicine, and art." explains Renee Dreyfus. curator of ancient art and interpretation at the Fine Arts Museums. "This exhibition gives us an opportunity to incorporate modern techniques and procedures with one of the oldest objects in our permanent collection."

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To the ancient Egyptians, the preservation of the body was an important factor in attaining and maintaining an afterlife. Mummification evolved from the concept of preserving the body as a receptacle for the life force. which survives after death Although great numbers of mummies were exported as "curiosities," they have been an underestimated and underutilized resource that finally are being recognized as a rich trove of preserved material Many mummies from the Egyptian city of Akhmim were found and exported at the end of the 19th century, allowing scientists to study them as a population. …

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