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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1986 Jan;146(1):93-6.

Modern imaging and endoscopic biopsy techniques in Egyptian mummies.


Egyptian mummies have been popular subjects of radiographic investigation since 1896. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have recently been added to the growing list of modern techniques used to study these relics. The Minnesota Mummy Project was organized to examine four well preserved Egyptian mummies dating from the XVIIIth (1575-1308 B.C.) and XXVth (715-663 B.C.) Dynasties. Plain radiographs and CT scans were obtained on all specimens. One individual was selected for additional endoscopic and microscopic correlation with CT findings in the thoracic cavity. The collapsed heart was identified by CT. A percutaneous biopsy of the heart was then performed with a flexible fiberoptic endoscope, passed through a small hole drilled into the chest wall. Microscopy of prepared ventricular specimens revealed striated muscle fibers consistent with myocardium. These results emphasize the utility of CT as a noninvasive paleoradiologic tool. Another mummy was examined by MRI to search for minute quantities of residual moisture possibly trapped within the desiccated tissues. Only a free-induction-decay signal could be obtained, but this was insufficient to generate an image. Thus, it appears that present MRI is not suitable for the paleopathologic investigation of dehydrated structures.

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