sexta-feira, outubro 05, 2012

Middle-aged teeth, young skeleton, hard working girl - the scanning of a female mummy from Egypt

Another interesting point of my research vanished from the powers invested in me by the Egyptian gods, I hereby re-post it.
This session took place on February 23rd, 2010 in Porto.

As I had recently the opportunity to present this as a part of the Egyptian collection at CIPEG 2012, I am here giving the summarized details of our study.

The most amazing preliminary conclusion we can point in this mummy, after the observation of the digital images taken, is that she has the constitution of a young adult but the teeth are very damaged, creating a paradox in the attempt to date her age-at-death. Teeth are one of the most reliable sources of information regarding the determination of age-at-death, along with the pubic symphysis, the midline cartilaginous joint uniting the superior rami of the left and right illiacs. In this case doubt has arisen between the members of the team in the examination room, at the hospital, as the teeth show extensive abrasive texture and cannot be indicative of the real age. 

The abrasion in teeth of ancient Egyptians was cause primarily by their diet; bread and other food was prepared in open air and caught sand particles. This made chewing very hard and besides caries, periodontal disease and premature tooth loss, it also made many ancient Egyptians suffer from temporomandibular disfunction (this articulation connects the skull to the mandible allowing the mouth to open and close). Infections like gengivitis and roten teeth were common but this one only missed a couple of teeth or so, thus being a very well preserved young adult female. The liability of these scans is very high and the proof of her real age in detail can also be obtained from her teeth, one tooth in fact is enough, in fact, one bit of a root is what we need. Molars have three and premolars have two, they are usually more protected from wear as they are stronger and more hidden in the mouth (although these are used to crush food more intensively). From a sample of a teeth's root there is a process by which scientists can determine the real age of a person. It is called 'dentin translucency' done from the microscopic examination of the root's dentin. A proposal to do so was indicated by an odontologist present at the scanning. Let us hope this project has the funding needed to do all the tests needed...

This scanning is part of an ongoing project in Porto, Portugal. The mummy in question was brought to Porto after some exchanging of merchandise between Portugal and Germany on the years following the First World War. The cargo of the ship Cheruskia consisted on pieces found by German excavations from 1903 to 1914 in Assur by Walter Andrae, travelling to Germany. Walter Andrae was an eminent German Assyriologist in the early 20th century. As an agreement made with Great Britain, Portugal imprisons 70 German ships anchored at Portuguese ports, in 1916. Germany declares war to Portugal on March 9th. The ship was seized at Lisbon by Portuguese authorities in April 1916; and while interned at Lisbon, renamed Leixões; after the war, in 1918, it was torpedoed by German sub. U-155 south of Newfoundland.
It stayed at Lisbon’s docks, in the Tagus river, for some years; its cargo was sent to be identified and studied to Porto’s Faculty of Letters by a team of French Assyriologists requested by Porto’s. The Assur artefacts were returned to Germany after they insisted on their recovery (they were valuables); some Egyptian Artefacts were given to Portugal as a gift in exchange for that. The documents read: Offered to Portugal in 1926 by German authorities in exchange for the spoil brought from Assur by the Germans that was imprisoned by Porto University.
These Egyptian artefacts came in a broader assembly of merchandise, in all ancient cultures artefacts’ that were in Berlin collections, (total 600 objects); the Egyptian items (were only 102 objects). They went to Porto’s Faculty of Letters where they stayed until 1928; then, they passed on to the Faculty of Sciences. The collection was transferred to Museum Mendes Corrêa where it stayed from 1940 onwards. The total of 102 pieces was listed in 1996, sponsored by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, but nothing was ever published (catalogue or study report). 

Female mummy, no sarcophagus, Porto University Museum
Two mummies came with this gift collection, and they are dated probably from the Late Period or Ptolemaic Period; a male mummy, completely wrapped (scanned and analyzed in November 2007 with some evaluation still in progress) and a female mummy, completely unwrapped (both mummies came from the Berlin Collection). In 1996, the Natural History Museum of the Sciences in the Faculty of Porto integrated the Egyptian Collection displayed at the Mendes Corrêa Archaeology and Pre-History Room. This collection was housed in the Faculty of Sciences Museum, since 1996, but this Museum had a fire and the collection is now exhibited in a new room.

The documents read: "Offered to Portugal in 1926 by German authorities in exchange for the spoil brought from Assur by the Germans that was imprisoned by Porto University."
Male mummy' sarcophagus 'face'

CT scans were taken from the individual at the Instituto cuf diagnostico e tratamento in Matosinhos. The notes below are the result of my evaluation during the scanning done on February 23rd, 2010, with the help of the Director of Imagiology.
There is nothing abnormal in the skeleton (young adult around 25 years old.),

the teeth are all there, minus 2 molars, some caries are present, some periodontal damage is seen, some abrasion, of course; stress marks on the atlas (we discussed the possibility of carrying weights on the head) and almost undisclosed osteophytes in the 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae, and three lumbar vertebrae show trauma resulting from the impact of different objects (one perforating object and another cutting one).

Imhotep Museum, Saqqara
No obvious cause of death shown as the trauma on the lumbar vertebrae is peri or post mortem for sure. Probable causes for the violent trauma shown on the lumbar vertebrae (my guess):


one 'training' mummification professional (an apprentice), not really sure where to pierce, maybe trying to cut the kidneys out of the body,


tomb robbers looking for jewellery in the thoracic/pelvic areas, trying to extract the amulets and gemstones, piercing the body and causing the damage seen on vertebrae,


some kind of mishandling the body while still in Egypt (changing sarcophagi), or moving from tomb to market/seller/warehouse,


another mishandling in Germany (Berlin basement, warehouse) while moving the mummy (she has no case and I believe she arrived in Portugal in a simple wood box; maybe the one she is in (still)...


Further discussion and analysis will be made, this is an ongoing project, now on pause due to the lack of funds, but I know everyone is curious about Egyptian mummies' mysteries and the paradoxes science unveils today with the help of new technologies. They are human and, like us, subject to trauma, accidents, disease, aging; but they are all beautiful. At least to me.

Sem comentários: