Croydon hospital uses medical equipment to unlock the past
The secrets of six perfectly preserved mummies have been revealed with the help of medical staff more used to searching for cancerous tumours than ancient sarcophagi.
Radiologists at BMI Shirley Oaks Hospital lent their skills and state of the art equipment to the British Museum to unlock the secrets of six mummified corpses dating from between 800 and 2,000 years ago.
The mummies, part of the museum’s permanent collection, underwent CT scans at the Croydon-based hospital, using x-ray technology to produce detailed 3D “sliced” images allowing the scientists to see inside the mummies outer bandages.
Kathy Gunn, manager of the radiology team, said: "These were untouched items that had never been scanned before.
"We were able to show the museum workers what was inside some canopic jars, used to keep ancient Egyptian organs, as well as what was under the mummies’ bandages.
"In one case they thought the body was headless, but the scan showed the head was actually crushed against the torso. It was fascinating for us and them."
The mummies, originally from Egypt, Peru and Sudan, were preserved both naturally and by human mummification methods.
Experts from the museum will return to the hospital later this month to analyse the results and images in greater detail.
Dr Daniel Antoine Curator, of physical anthropology at the British Museum, said: “This opportunity provided to us by BMI Shirley Oaks Hospital gives the British Museum an unparalleled opportunity to source scientific data that will help us shed light on the physical anthropology, family relationships, life expectancy, nutrition, health, disease and the causes of death of these mummies.”
The mummies were brought to Croydon carefully wrapped in the back of vans before being unboxed and scanned by radiographers Fernando Marques and Sierra Westbury.
Mrs Gunn said: “The whole hospital turned out to see.
“On our patients we would use CT to help us detect vascular lesions, infections, tumours, calcifications, haemorrhage, bone/organs trauma, genetic anomalies and nerve pain conditions.
“But, the technology we have at the hospital is so advanced that it can also be used to help scientists learn about the lives of people who lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago.”