Jun 8, 2016 | By Benedict

Archaeologists and doctors in Spain have used 3D scanning technology to examine the remains of four ancient mummies belonging to the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid. The experts hope to use the 3D scans to determine how the mummified individuals lived and died.

Today, 3D scanners are used by doctors to help patients in various ways. Visual data collected from 3D scans can help prosthetists create custom-fit prosthetic limbs for patients, and can also be used to create 3D printed surgical guides, enabling surgeons to perform operations with the utmost confidence. Unfortunately, four individuals who recently went through a high-tech 3D scanner in Madrid won’t be benefitting so much from the technology—but thats because they’ve been dead for thousands of years.

At the University Hospital Quironsalud Madrid (UHQM), a team of experts recently put four ancient mummies—three Egyptian and one Guanche, from the Canary Islands—through a next-generation CT scanner, designed to produce near-perfect 3D renderings of scanned subjects. The experts wanted to do this in order to find out how the mummified individuals lived, how they died, and how their bodies were treated during their incredibly elaborate burial procedures.

The team of researchers consisted of doctors Vicente Martinez de Vega, Javier Carrascoso, and Silvia Badillo Rodriguez-Portugal, who were helped by Egyptologists Carmen Perez Die, Teresa Gomez Espinosa, and Esther Pons. Less is known, however, about the subjects inside the scanner than those operating it. The experts hope that new visual data produced by the 3D scanner will help to shed some new light on the mysterious ancient characters.

The first mummy to undergo the 3D scan was a 2,300-year-old male known as Nespamedu, while the other two Egyptian mummies were females, one a mature adult and one younger. The fourth subject, one of the best-preserved mummies in the world, was a Guanche man, whose mummified body was discovered in 1776 in Tenerife, Spain.

The next-generation CT scanner, currently the only one of its kind in Madrid, emits low levels of radiation but has a high resolution, and is therefore able to obtain extremely precise 3D images stitched together from more than 2,000 cross-sectional images. The 3D scans taken of the mummies were therefore of a much higher quality than radiographies taken of the same bodies in 1976.

“I have spent all my life with these mummies,” said Egyptologist Carmen Perez Die. “They are very important pieces and I am looking forward to beginning this new way of studying them with which we will learn many new things about them that until now we could not access.”

As the team of experts put the four mummies through the 3D scanner, they were filmed by a TV crew from Spanish network RTVE, which will broadcast a documentary about the process next year.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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