. March 17, 2015

Scientists Discover Answers from Ancient Mummy Using 3D Radiology and Other Advanced Technology

CINCINNATI – The results of the “virtual autopsy” performed on the Peruvian child mummy are in, providing new insights into the life of the child. A non-invasive 3D computer tomography (CT) scan of the Peruvian child mummy was performed on January 28 by a team of radiologists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The child mummy is currently on display at Cincinnati Museum Center as part of the groundbreaking Mummies of the World exhibition, open through April 26.

3D SCAN OF PERUVIAN CHILD MUMMYFrom their analysis of both soft tissues and the mummy’s skeleton, the research team, including Dr. Andrew Trout, radiologist at Cincinnati Children’s and Dr. Heather Gill-Frerking, curator of the Mummies of the World exhibition, was able to conclude that the mummy is that of a young girl, approximately 3 years old. Initial scans of the mummy revealed a dislocated hip joint and evidence of cranial modulation, a common practice of Peruvian culture for centuries. The skulls of children were bound with boards on the forehead and back of the head, resulting in the skull becoming elongated, a feature that many South American cultures believed to be beautiful. Further scans were able to determine that there was no damage to the brain as a result of the cranial modulation or any other traumatic injury. The scan also revealed signs of periods of nutritional stress, as evidenced by growth recovery lines on the tibia of the mummy. The lines indicate stress, likely as the result of seasonal nutritional deficiencies such as food shortages over the winter season.

“The child had some sort of stress which stopped growth for a short period of time,” said Dr. Trout, radiologist at Cincinnati Children’s. “This is not malnourishment but is more of a nutritional stress. It’s not to the point the child was developing major abnormalities of the bone. Instead, the body stopped growing for a very short period of time when food was scarce but resumed growing afterward.”

The scan was unable to determine the cause of death but the research team did not find any evidence of chronic disease that would have been the cause of death. Dr. Trout and Dr. Gill-Frerking were also able to rule out some possible causes of death: tuberculosis, major trauma to the body or skull and wide-spread cancer, thyroid dysfunction or some other abnormality that would cause death. According to Dr. Gill-Frerking, determining a definitive cause of death in mummies can often be extremely difficult.

Through the cutting-edge medical imaging available at Cincinnati Children’s, the scan helped experts determine these details, and further analysis will assist in future research applied to the exhibition.

“Any time you have an opportunity to help solve a mystery that’s over 500 years old it’s really exciting,” says Dave Duszynski, vice president at Cincinnati Museum Center. “You literally get a glimpse back in time at a person who still has stories to tell. Thanks to the efforts and expertise of Dr. Trout and the radiology team at Cincinnati Children’s and Dr. Gill-Frerking from the Mummies of the World exhibition, we now know more about this child mummy and that information may lead to further insight in both the medical and archaeological community.”

In-depth results from the CT scan conducted at Cincinnati Children’s and a 3D printed model of the mummy’s skull will be featured in the Mummies of the World , which is on display at Cincinnati Museum Center until April 2015. For more information visit or

Special thanks to the San Diego Museum of Man, Cincinnati Children’s Department of Radiology in cooperation with the Cincinnati Children’s Department of Cardiology and the University of Cincinnati Digital Fabrication Lab.

About Mummies of the World
Nationally recognized exhibition, Mummies of the World, currently at its eleventh venue and viewed by over 1.2 million visitors across the United States is presenting a new, never before seen collection of rare mummies that spans eons of time and transcends history. The groundbreaking exhibition reveals how the scientific study of mummies provides a window into the lives of ancient people, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures, civilizations and showcases galleries exploring the study of mummies linked to discoveries in modern medicine. Mummies of the World is produced by American Exhibitions, Inc. one of the leading exhibition producers in the United States. For more information, visit

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