The man was believed to have been a priest, and his mummy is on display at Israel's national museum. While examining the remains, the researchers used a CT scan to reveal that he suffered from some illnesses during his lifetime. The mummy, nicknamed ''Alex'', was wrapped in strands of linen with a gold mask placed over his skull’s face and was encased in a gold and a black coffin. When he died he was between 30 to 40 years old.
A CT (computerized tomography) scan of a 2,200-year-old Egyptian mummy on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Associated Press PhotoAccording to DailyMail, the researchers saw evidence of severe tooth decay and guessed that the man suffered from excruciating toothaches. During his lifetime, he also evidently avoided manual labor in the sun in favor of focusing on his spiritual well-being. He evidently ate snacks that were full of carbohydrates as well. Thus, it is not too surprising that “Alex” had cavities in his teeth. This was quite common in some social classes in ancient Egypt due to a diet which contained lots of sweets. The man’s diet and lifestyle also made him more susceptible to osteoporosis, which the scans also show.
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According to the researchers, the man was originally 167 cm (5.6 ft.) tall, but after his mummification, his body shrank to 154 cm (5.1 ft.) The team believes that this decrease in size was caused by the embalming process and the dry climate of Jerusalem. However, the same reasons aided in the excellent preservation of the mummy's bones, teeth, and even remnants of blood vessels.
Another interesting fact about this mummy is that it is the only relic in Israel which has the double “Protective Eye of Horus” - a very meaningful symbol related to Ancient Egypt.
Horus was a key deity in ancient Egypt as a god of the sky and war, and this being was depicted as a man with a falcon head or as a falcon.
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The Egyptian Mummy on display in the Israel Museum. Photo Credit: Israel MuseumThis is not the first time when CT scans have helped to find out more about the health of a person who was mummified millennia ago. As Mark Miller from Ancient Origins reported in September 25, 2015 “Over the years, scientists have found evidence of cancers, heart disease, starvation, ulcers, smallpox, tuberculosis and other infections in ancient remains from all over the world.” Researchers using CT scans have also detected a diseased kidney in an ancient Egyptian mummy. It appeared that a mummy of a man named Irtieru “had a kidney disease called renal tuberculosis that calcified (hardened) the organ.”
Irtieru died in the Third Intermediate Period and his mummy is housed within the Egyptian collection of the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia in Lisbon, and as Mr. Miller wrote “Computer tomography scans of this mummy showed a small dense bean-shaped structure at the left lumbar region. Its anatomical location, morphologic and structural analysis support a diagnosis of end-stage renal tuberculosis. If this diagnosis is correct, this will be the oldest example of kidney tuberculosis, and the first one recorded in an intentionally mummified ancient Egyptian.”
As one can see, health issues related to lifestyle are nothing new. What is interesting for many researchers is to find out just which diseases have passed through the sands of time, connecting modern people to their ancient ancestors. It is also of interest to see how and why these health problems have persisted. Furthermore, research into this area can show which illnesses were found in different social classes and how these may relate to their diet, activities, and social hierarchy.
Top image: The embellished mummy case containing the remains of the priest Iret-hor-iru | Photo credit: Oren Ben Hakoon
By Natalia Klimzcak