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Mummies get CT scans in Missouri

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

(<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4x1q758n7M" target="_blank">KCTV5 News</a> YouTube video screenshot)

(KCTV5 News YouTube video screenshot)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Modern technology met ancient times in Kansas City, Mo., this week, when two mummies between 500 and 2,000 years old were put through CT scans that researchers hope will unlock their mysteries.

The human remains, in fetal positions and wrapped in grass baskets, underwent the tests Wednesday at St. Luke’s Hospital. The hospital has a state-of-the-art computerized tomography machine that uses data from several X-rays to produce a detailed image with high resolution, The Kansas City Star reported.

It will take weeks to get the full report, but the procedure will reveal the mummies’ genders, their ages at the time of death and maybe something about who they were and how they died.

“You don’t have to unwrap the basket of the mummy to see what’s in there,” cardiologist Randall Thompson said as he watched the CT scans create three-dimensional images on a computer screen.

Thompson and colleagues have scanned or studied scans of about 300 mummies from around the world since 2009. Thompson is researching heart disease in ancient people. This was the first time mummies have been scanned at St. Luke’s.

The mummies were purchased in 1921 by a Kansas City businessman in La Paz, Bolivia, and donated in 1939 to the Kansas City Museum, where they were on display between 1940 and 1960. They have been in storage since. The mummy baskets may also contain burial goods that could shed light on the culture in which the deceased lived and their positions in it.

All that’s been known about the mummies is that they came from the highlands of South America. One has holes in the skull, which may be a sign of a crude surgical procedure to treat pain, or it may have been part of a ritual.

The mummies were taken out of storage to be part of the Mummies of the World exhibit at Union Station.

“We were really happy and proud to see them have an educational purpose again,” said Denise Morrison, director of collections for the Kansas City Museum. “This was an added bonus.”