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)
Introduction Movie (AVI 5.7 MB)
Introduction Movie (MPEG 5.4 MB)
"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."
Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials
University of Illinois
X-Rays 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.
Mummy Movie (QuickTime 5.0 MB)
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.
Mummy Movie (AVI 4 MB)
Mummy Movie (MPEG 3.3 MB)
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."
DNA"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."