Medical tests bring new life to mummies’ past

    Tests at Lankenau Medical Center are helping researchers unlock mysteries about the lives behind the mummified remains now at the Franklin Institute.

    Ever wanted to touch a mummy?  At the Franklin Institute’s new mummy exhibit, you can come pretty close. No, you won’t get to feel actual mummy tissue, but you can handle replica skin and bone. The exhibit also boasts interactive learning kiosks, where you can get to know mummies who come from all over the world — not just Egypt.

    Two mummies from the collection went to Lankenau Medical Center recently, where they got CT scans, which produce thousands of images from all planes and angles. The scans can be used to make 3D models.

    A mysterious baby from South America, believed to be more than 600 years old, was scanned to help determine its age, sex and cause of death.  Veronica, a delicate female mummy from 18th Century Hungary, got a standard endoscopy, in which a tiny wire equipped with a camera and a claw was fed into her well-preserved organs to extract tissue samples for further study.

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    As what was believed to be stomach tissue was removed from her remains, doctors, researchers and technicians gasped and cheered.

    The researchers agreed that a human mummy is a priceless artifact. Mummies can tell scientist what ancient people ate, how they died and, in some cases, what kind of jobs they had.

    Steven Snyder, vice president of programs and exhibits at the Franklin Institute, said, “These are the remains of individuals, these tell stories.  They’re very personal and have a real power to engage people in science in a new way.”

    Mummies of the World opens at the Franklin Institute on June 18th.

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