A patient checked into an area hospital last week for a routine CAT scan — but doctors couldn’t do anything for her.
After all, she’s a mummy who’s been dead for 2,600 years.
The Brooklyn Museum took Lady Gauteshenu — a rich lady from the Late Period of Egypt’s glorious past — to North Shore University Hospital for a look under her skin, as it were. She’d been X-rayed before, but assistant conservator Tina March said there were still some questions left unanswered.
“We didn’t know if any of her internal organs remain,” said March. “We didn’t know if there any unusual items buried with her.”
To answer these questions, museum curators, conservators solicited help from experts in art shipping (yes, there is such a thing) and used a climate controlled van with a special suspension system and plenty of foam to transport their mummy to the Long Island medical center in total comfort.
Thanks to the modern technology at the hospital, scientists could see right through her cartonnage — the technical term for her hardened papyrus mummy casing — without taking it apart and disrupting the lady’s remains.
The CT scan revealed that the ancient art of mummification worked as promised: the corpse was not a pile of dust, but a complete body with hair, flesh, and bones.
Even her teeth were still sparkling — though scientists credit the lack of sugar in the ancient Egyptian diet for that.
“Egyptian mummies often have very good, very straight and very white teeth,” said Yekaterina Barbash, an Egyptian wing curator. “When refined sugar was introduced and teeth became much worse.”
Today’s modern Egyptologists aren’t tomb raiders; even though the scan revealed amulets inside the body, Barbash said that they’ll remain exactly where they are.
Ancient morticians were far less generous. The scan showed that Lady Gauteshenu’s brain and all her other internal organs except her heart were removed during the mummification process — an expensive surgery that only the wealthy and the royals underwent.
For now, the old lady will return to the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent Egyptian exhibit, but this time alongside her shiny new hospital scans, which will be put on display.