The use of digital technology to study mummies is nothing new. But a recent report shows how two out of every three South American mummies may have died a savage, brutal death.
The 16-page report, published Friday in Frontiers in Medicine magazine, looked at three South American mummies, two males and one female, ranging in age from 740 to 1120 years.
According to the report, each was naturally mummified with good soft-tissue preservation.
Through CT scans, a non-invasive scan used to examine objects in 3D, the researchers determined that the men died violently, while the woman died of natural causes.
The availability of modern CT scans with the possibility for 3D reconstructions offers unique insights into bodies that would otherwise not have been discovered, Andreas Nerlich, a professor in the Department of Pathology at Munich Klinikum Bogenhausen in Germany and a co-author of the report, said in a statement : Previous studies would have either destroyed the mummy, while X-rays or older CT scans without three-dimensional reconstruction capabilities would not have been able to detect the key diagnostic features we found here.
The first male mummy is believed to have lived in the Arica region of northern Chile between 996 and 1147 AD. The report refers to him as the Marburger. The man was around 20 to 25 years old and was buried in a sitting position. The second two have been dubbed the Delmont mummies, with the male life dated to between AD 902 and 994 and the female life dated to between AD 1224 and 1282. The two mummies, probably from the Arequipa region of Peru, were positioned flat on their backs rather than on a perch.
The Marburg man is believed to have died after the attacker hit the victim in the head with full force and the second attacker stabbed the victim (who was still standing or kneeling) in the back, according to the report. The other apparently died after suffering massive trauma to the cervical spine.
A group of researchers from universities in Spain, the UK, the US and Germany co-authored the report. Importantly, examining human mummified material can reveal a much higher rate of trauma, particularly intentional trauma, than examining skeletons. There are dozens of South American mummies that could benefit from a similar study to the one we’ve done here, Nerlich continued.
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