CT Scan Of 2,000-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy Reveals A Tumor In Its Leg

The CT scanner allowed researchers to peer beneath the wrappings. syracuse.com/YouTube

Josh Davis 12 Dec 2017, 18:06

When the latest patient was put through the CT scanner at Crouse Hospital, New York, he was far past saving, but the doctors were still excited to figure out what had killed him in the first place. This was no ordinary patient for a modern hospital, but a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy instead.

The body belongs to that of Hen, who arrived at Cazenovia Public Library in 1894 and has been on display there ever since. But this trip to the hospital is finally answering some questions about how exactly Hen lived – and died – that have remained shrouded in mystery for millennia.

Under the supervision of radiologist Dr Mark Levinsohn, the mummy was passed through a CT scanner to reveal what was going on under the wrappings. It showed in detail that Hen suffered from a tumor growing in the bone of his left leg. Whether or not this was the cause of his death is hard to ascertain, but it could not have been comfortable.

“He had a tumor on his Fibula which is one of the two bones of the lower leg,” said Dr Mark Levinsohn to BGR. “Looking at it, it had all the characteristics of a malignant tumor and one that's somewhat rare. So, here we have a rare circumstance and a rare tumor and that evoked our interest a lot.”

This is actually a follow-up study to one that was first completed 10 years previous. Since then, technology has improved somewhat, and as such the scanners can picture the mummy in far higher resolution. This didn’t stop that 2006 scan from revealing some surprising results though, not least that Hen was actually a man, unlike what the buyer was told when they first purchased the Egyptian “princess”.

Following on from the CT scans, the remains of Hen were then wheeled to another floor of the hospital, where his body underwent a host of biopsies. Using tiny needles, samples were taken from the tumor in his leg, as well from the muscle in his right leg and from his lung.

The researchers hope to see if they can get any genetic information about the tumor from these samples, although a similar attempt was tried to no avail back in 2006. They also hope to see if the slight abscess in his lung might be cancerous, which could indicate that the tumor in the leg had spread while Hen was alive, and thus potentially led to his death.

The results from these biopsies are expected to take at least two months, but could solve the riddle of Hen’s dying days.  

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