How they died is still a mystery.
But medical scans performed last week clearly show how the two ancient Egyptian mummies on display at Davenport’s Putnam Museum were preserved.
Puncture holes, incisions and rolled-up linens seen inside the two bodies — now verified as that of a man and a woman — offer important clues about the mummification process used thousands of years ago, museum curator Eunice Schlichting said Tuesday.
Now, the investigation continues.
The museum is seeking an Egyptologist or cultural anthropologist to further study the CT, or computed tomography, scans of the mummies that were donated last week by http://www.genesishealth.com/">Genesis Medical Center.
An expert might be able to help the museum better determine when the two people lived and therefore how old the mummies are, Schlichting said.
“We’re hoping to just keep going with trying to acquire more information about them,” she said, adding that upgrades to the museum’s permanent mummy display expected to be done later this year will include the CT scan results.
Radiologist Andrew Berkow with the Radiology Group Imaging Center of Davenport shared the results of the scans with museum staff late last week, he said.
Some of the findings generally mirror what museum officials had believed about the mummies all along, Schlichting said.
For instance, the scans show that the male mummy — still wrapped in its original linens — was a young adult when he died. The museum had him listed as about 19 years old, “so we kind of thought of him as a boy,” but he was an adult, she said.
“You tell that with the growth plates in the bones,” she said. “The other way they were determining age was by the teeth, and his teeth are in good condition, although he is missing multiple teeth.”
The female mummy, which was unwrapped soon after being donated to the museum in the 1960s, was believed to be in her mid- to late 20s when she died. Her worn-down teeth indicate she might have been older than that, Schlichting said.
Officials were hoping the skeletons would point to the cause of death, maybe through a bone fracture or signs of congenital disease, but no such evidence was found.
However, the radiologist said while taking the scans that the male mummy’s skeleton is in poor condition, with two breaks in the spinal column and multiple broken ribs. Berkow believes those breaks happened after the young man died, most likely by rough handling at some point.
This is the first anyone has been aware of the bone breaks because the male mummy is still wrapped, Schlichting said.
“I guess, to me, what was exciting was being able to see inside his wrappings, but also you can really see the mummification process on both of them,” she added.
The scans show holes in the nasal cavities where someone punctured them to remove the brains. On both mummies, incisions were found on the sides where someone reached inside to take out the internal organs, she said.
Linen wrappings, which most likely were soaked in resin and spices, still remain in the body cavities as a preservation tool, she said.
Berkow also said he found evidence of a heart inside the female mummy, but nothing in the male. It was the ancient Egyptians’ practice to leave only the heart inside a mummified body, he added.
The museum also received scans of a detached mummified head and two mummified birds, which are part of the Putnam’s Egyptian collection. However, those scans have not yet been thoroughly analyzed, Schlichting said.
Berkow, who has worked in the radiology field since 1975, said mummies are among the strangest things he has scanned, but maybe not the strangest.
Some of the oddest subjects he has scanned are not fit to be mentioned in the newspaper, he joked.
The mummy scans were particularly challenging, though, because “they’re so dried-out,” he said.
“I guess we’re all part of history,” he said, downplaying his role in uncovering new information about the mummies. “We all make our own contribution to history, don’t we?”
(Times columnist Bill Wundram contributed to this article.)