News | December 21, 2010

Hungarian Mummy Undergoes CT Scan at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital

December 21, 2010 - An adult female mummy born in 1770 in Vac, Hungary, has undergone a noninvasive computerized tomography (CT) scan at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee. Using 21st century technology helps researchers understand more about the 18th century mummy.

The scan was organized by the Milwaukee Public Museum in collaboration with American Exhibitions, the German Mummy Project based at the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums (REM) in Mannheim, Germany, and the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest, Hungary. Researchers wanted to determine the mummy's state of preservation and any disease or injury she may have had.

The mummy, Veronica Orlovits, is one of a three-member mummy family on loan from the Hungarian Natural History Museum as part of Mummies of the World. This exhibition reveals how the scientific study of mummies provides a window into the lives of ancient peoples and civilizations from around the world.

"CT scans and other science tools represent the gold standard in studying mummies, helping us to learn much more about how people lived and died," said Heather Gill-Frerking, the scientific research coordinator for the German Mummy Project, based at the REM. "These techniques are also nondestructive and provide a complete three-dimensional archive record, which also allows us to preserve the mummies for future generations."

The Orlovits family is part of a group of 18th century mummies discovered in Vac, Hungary, in 1994. Reconstruction of parts of a Dominican church just north of Budapest uncovered two long-forgotten burial crypts dating back to 1674 and sealed in 1838.

Michael Orlovits (born 1765), Veronica Orlovits and their son Johannes (born 1800) were among those preserved by the cool, dry air of the crypt and the oil from the pine shavings that lined some of the coffins. Extensive research, including DNA analysis, has already revealed that Veronica Orlovits suffered from severe tuberculosis. The CT scan will help confirm this analysis, as well as provide insight on any other diseases or injuries she may have suffered. Without invasive techniques, the scan also will reveal the exact condition of preservation of the mummy over the past 245 years.

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