The World Heritage Museum wanted to know more about this mummy acquired from a Chicago antiquities dealer in 1989. They asked Sarah Wisseman, an archaeologist with the University of Illinois Ancient Technologies and Archaeological and Materials program, to help. The Museum's concern was that the mummy remain intact, that all investigations be nondestructive.

Beginning the Investigation

Introduction Movie (QuickTime 6.5 MB)
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"When the University of Illinois first acquired the mummy, they really had very little information about where it came from. All we know is that it was acquired from the Fayum Oasis Disrict in Egypt some time in the 1920's. We don't know a specific tomb, or even the specific site within the oasis that this mummy came from. So, the questions we have were, how much can we find out about the person inside the wrappings and the embalming techniques without destroying the artifact that we try to keep for the future. So, we wanted to find out the age of the person inside the mummy, the sex, the medical history, the cause of death, the diet, anything else we could find out about the human body and then investigate the wrapping techniques and see if they were typical of the Roman Period, and how they compared with earlier mummification techniques in ancient Egypt. In other words, to do as much as possible to recreate the life of the person inside of the mummy."
Sarah Wisseman
Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials
University of Illinois


The first stage in the investigation was to take the mummy to the university's Large Animal Clinic, where X-ray technician Richard Keen produced 15 X-rays. From the X-rays it was established that the mummy was a child aged 7-9 at the time of death.

CAT Scans

Mummy Movie (QuickTime 5.0 MB)
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The second stage of the investigation involved a CAT Scan of the mummy at Carle Clinic. The CAT scans began at the top of the skull and went down to the feet with a primary focus on the skull in order to create a good three-dimensional reconstruction of the skull and face of the mummy.

Stable Isotope Analysis

"Some of the bones at the broken foot of the mummy were taken by Stan Ambrose, an anthropologist, who used a technique called stable isotope analysis to investigate the diet of the mummy. He had trouble measuring carbon isotope ratios of the collagen, but he said the evidence he did get indicated that our child probably had pretty much a vegeterian diet, which was typical for that time period in Egypt."
Sarah Wisseman


"The World Heritage Museum director managed to get a little bit of tissue, I believe it was skin, and a little bit of bone, and sent it to a Danish team for DNA analysis. They were able to identify DNA, but they cannot read the DNA because it is clouded. I have suggested, and I think people agree, that one of the explanations for this is the resins and bitimum that were used in embalming the mummy impregnated everything, not only the wrappings, but the body, all the way down to the board. So, unless the technique is perfected or we are able to take a new sample of perhaps, a core of bone that has no contaminating resin, we probably we never answer any questions with DNA."
Sarah Wisseman