Autopsy of an Egyptian Mummy


Many mummies have been researched and documented over the last few hundred years. There have been ongoing searches for new treasures and important findings. These digs help us better understand the rich history, improve our understanding of cultures, lives, and technology.

We’ve all imagined the opportunity to find the greatest treasure in the world. I mean, what kid hasn’t?

It is exciting to learn what items were buried with Pharaohs or Kings or even Slaves. It becomes very interesting to learn how they lived and what they found important.

However, how they lived is not the only exciting thing. How they died has become almost as interesting. New technology has enabled scientists to examine a mummy and identify what they died from.

As a medical practitioner – I love this possibility.

I was just reading last week about Dr. Granville’s Mummy.

The exciting part was that this mummy was found back in 1825.

mummy2What was most puzzling was how this person died. August Granville first described this mummy to London’s Royal Society in 1825.

The remains were that of a woman believed to have died around 600BD at the age of 50. Her name was Irtyersenu and she died in Thebes. After extensive research, it was theorized that she could have died from Ovarian Cancer.

Twenty Years ago – the remains were rediscovered and new tests were done.  This new research indicated that ovarian cancer was likely benign. This opened the idea of a different cause of death. Other findings include malaria and signs of inflammation of the Lungs.

This Inflammation could be from a variety of medical conditions. Two were believed to be the front runners: Pneumonia and Tuberculosis.

What made things more difficult was the manner in which the mummy was mummified. Typically – the organs are removed and preserved independently of the body. Other times, a chemical is placed into the anus to dissolve the organs.  But in this case, the entire body was coated in a waxy substance. This made working with the body much more difficult.

Mummy1The next step was a DNA evaluation of the body. Through this process, a short section of DNA was found from the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

This organism was found in the Bone, Gallbladder, and Lungs. This told the researches that Tuberculosis had spread from the lungs into the rest of her body.

This type of infection – especially so many years ago – would have been fatal and clearly was the cause of death.

Malaria was ruled out early because no DNA evidence was found of Malaria.

In the end and in this case – Tuberculosis was the cause of death.

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