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Panel Discussion: The Mummy Is a Daddy—How Technology Is Revealing Secrets of the Mummies

February 12, 2015
Fullerton Hall
Free with museum admission

Mary Greuel, Elizabeth McIlvaine Assistant Curator of Ancient Art; Emily Teeter, Egyptologist, Oriental Institute Museum; and Michael Vannier, professor of radiology, University of Chicago, present the most recent and surprising findings from the extensive CT scanning performed on two Art Institute mummies.

Last February, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Oriental Institute, and the University of Chicago Medical Center began a project to study the two human mummies in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Technology—especially computerized tomography, or CT scanning—is increasingly being used as an important noninvasive tool in the study of mummies. How could state-of-the-art CT scanning help the museum learn more about the lives of its mummies? Were magical amulets and other treasures buried beneath the wrappings? What secrets would be uncovered?

On February 19, 2014, the mummies were transported to the university hospital’s Center for Care and Discovery, where they were scanned using a new protocol—a Philips iCT spiral CT scanner on four energies that combined the data to give superior resolution. To our knowledge, this is the first time Egyptian mummies have been examined with four energies. Approximately 56,000 images were obtained in a matter of only about four hours. 

Members of the Mummy Research Project present the findings from this procedure in the program "The Mummy Is a Daddy." First, Mary Greuel, Elizabeth McIlvaine Assistant Curator of Ancient Art, gives a history of how the mummies came into the Art Institute’s collection. Next, Dr. Emily Teeter, Egyptologist at the Oriental Institute Museum, explains the style and process of mummification, the dating of the mummies, and what previous research had led us to believe we knew about them. Lastly, Dr. Vannier, professor of radiology at the Medical Center, goes over the scanning process and reveals the surprising, fascinating, and sometimes shocking new discoveries. A panel discussion follows the presentations.

This groundbreaking collaboration is an example of how cultural and scientific institutions in the city can join forces and share expertise to shed new light on complex investigations. 

The Perucca Family Foundation has generously funded the Mummy Research Project.

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An Art Institute mummy is placed into a CT scanner.