Computed tomography of the heads of ancient Egyptian mummies: a systematic review of the medical literature.

  • Raphael Olszewski Department of oral and maxillofacial surgery, Cliniques universitaires saint Luc, Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2211-7731
  • Jean-Philippe Hastir Department of medical imaging, Cliniques universitaires saint Luc, Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium
  • Caroline Tilleux Museums of Art and History, Parc du Cinquantenaire 10, Brussels, Belgium; Université catholique de Louvain, Pl. Blaise Pascal 1, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • Luc Delvaux Museums of Art and History, Parc du Cinquantenaire 10, Brussels, Belgium
  • Etienne Danse Department of medical imaging, Cliniques universitaires saint Luc, Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0951-9856
Keywords: egyptian mummy, embalming, computed tomography, systematic review, head, face

Abstract

Objective: To summarize the current knowledge on CT scanning of Egyptian mummy heads and faces and provide more valid methodology than that previously available.

Material and methods: A systematic review was performed by one observer using two biomedical databases: PubMed and EMBASE. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied along with language restrictions. Finally, 2120 articles were found, 359 articles were duplicated among all search equations, 1454 articles were excluded, 307 articles were retained for full review, and 28 articles (31 mummies) were selected for the final study (PRISMA workflow).

Results: The data were categorized into the following groups: 1) general information; 2) 1st author affiliation; 3) CT radiological protocol; 4) excerebration pathways; 5) soft tissue preservation; 6) dental status and displaced teeth; 7) packing of the mouth, ears, nose, and eyes, and 8) outer facial appearance. The evidence-based quality of the studies was low because only case reports and small case series were found.

Discussion: The embalming art applied to a mummified head and face shows great variability across the whole span of Egyptian civilization. The differences among the various embalming techniques rely on multiple tiny details that are revealed by meticulous analysis of CT scans by a multidisciplinary team of experts.

Conclusion: There is a need for more systematization of the CT radiological protocol and the description of Egyptian mumm’y heads and faces to better understand the details of embalming methods.

 

Published
2020-01-12