Ever had a CT scan? If so, you know that the doctor tells you to hold your breath and be still to let the machine capture an accurate image. Recent “patients” scanned with GE Healthcare’s Discovery CT750 HD — an advanced CT system that incorporates the latest Gemstone Spectral Imaging (GSI) technology — don’t have this problem — because they’re two thousand-years old.
The GE Healthcare facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin recently performed CT scans on mummies — two from ancient Egypt and one from Peru, that are featured in an exhibit called “Mummies of the World,” which runs through May 30 at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Beyond just the novelty of it, the scans have a purpose — to help anthropologists at the Museum learn more about how the mummies lived and died.
This isn’t the first time the anthropologists have turned to GE Healthcare for assistance, and as GE’s CT imaging technology has improved, so too has their knowledge of the mummies’ history. One of the Egyptian mummies, named Djed-Hor, was first scanned in 1986. Then again in 2006, another scan using better technology revealed a silver dollar-sized hole in his skull, leading the anthropologists to conclude he had undergone a primitive form of brain surgery. Now they hope 3D imaging can confirm a new theory that Djed-Hor survived the horrific procedure, and even lived for a time afterwards.
“We’ve been doing this for 25 years with GE. Every time we’ve come out, it’s a different generation of technology, better imaging, better information, better ways and it’s faster too,” Milwaukee Public Museum head of Anthropology and History Carter Lupton told WISN.
The key to GSI’s unique history-uncovering abilities lies in its imaging: It captures images using two different energy levels, enabling physicians to distinguish between different types of tissue. This technology lets doctors find details down to the smaller lesions on the patient’s body.
This is the second time during “Mummies of the World” that CT imaging has yielded new insights into the past. Another mummy from the exhibit, Veronica Orlovitz — a relatively young 241 year old woman who was recently discovered, fully preserved, during renovation work at a Hungarian church — was scanned by GE Healthcare in December. Scientists determined she had mostly likely died of tuberculosis, and was severely malnourished.