North Shore performs CT scan on mummy

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A 2,600-year-old Egyptian mummy got to experience modern cutting-edge technology when she underwent a CT scan last week at North Shore University Hospital so doctors and officials at the Brooklyn Museum could learn more about her life and how she died.

“The combination of medical science and Egyptology allows us to search for the health history of this individual,” said Dr. Edward Bleiberg, curator of Egyptian art at the museum.

After going through the CT scan, which took thousands of pictures of Lady Gautseshenu, radiologists and doctors at North Shore discovered that Gautseshenu — a longer form of “Susan” — was an upper-class Egyptian and at least 16 years old when she died.

The CT scan images indicated Lady Gautseshenu was an aristocratic Egyptian because her heart and lungs were preserved better than most mummies — evidence that she was well-off, according to Bleiberg.

“It seems like there are some remains of organ structures in the abdominal and chest cavities,” said Dr. Jesse Chusid of North Shore’s Radiology Department.

“From the cartonnage we can tell that she’s from an upper-class family,” said Bleiberg, who said the museum knew Gautseshenu was from Thebes — now Luxor — and that her great-great-grandfather was an important priest in Egypt.

Egyptologists believe the mummy dates back anywhere from 650 B.C. to 700 B.C.

The CT scan, which was done without having to unwrap the mummy, also showed the woman had all her teeth intact.

Dr. Amgad Makaryus, director of cardiac CT and MRI of North Shore’s Department of Cardiology, said the teeth were not a surprise.

“They didn’t have refined sugar back in the day — when they baked bread, there was sand in the bread,” which acted as an abrasive and cleansed the teeth, Makaryus said. “Every time they ate the bread, it was like they were brushing their teeth.”

The thousands of images were not expected to be fully analyzed for days.

North Shore put five other mummies through a CT scan in the past, with some showing calcification that indicated they died from heart disease.

Bleiberg said the average lifespan in ancient Egypt was 40 years, but that number had been brought down due to early infant mortality.

If an Egyptian reached 5 years old without succumbing to child-related diseases, they had a good chance of reaching 60 or 70 years old, he said.

The Brooklyn Museum acquired Lady Gautseshenu from Cairo in 1933 and has nine human mummies in its collection, including Lady Gautseshenu and three others that are on display. The rest are in storage.

Bleiberg said the museum hopes to have Lady Gautseshenu back on display in about two weeks.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 10:41 am, October 12, 2011
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