Mummy CT Scan: DNA Analysis Reveals Critical Details

By Anne Dominguez , Dec 24, 2016 07:20 AM EST

The world's oldest mummies just had their medical check-up after more than 7,000 years. Using mummy CT scans and DNA testing, anthropologists try to reveal the secrets of the Chinchorro mummies -- which are about 2,000 years older than the first mummies in Egypt.

The Chinchorro is an old civilization in modern-day Chile and Peru. They are composed of fishing and hunting people who lived on the Pacific coast of South America from 10,000 to 3,400 BC. The Chinchorro were among the first civilization who used mummification on the dead. Their mummies are at least 7,400 years old.

Last week, 15 mummies were brought to a Santiago clinic. Researchers revealed how the mummification process was done. The Chinchorro people carefully removed the skin and muscles in the dead body and reconstructed it by putting plants, clay and wood in the skeleton.

The original skin was then sewed back and the hair, eyes and mouth were added. They also put a mask on the face resulting in an eerie combination of a person and a statue. They follow one general process but the method evolved through time.

However, the most surprising thing is, their mummification process has no scale. Unlike Egyptians, it was not reserved to royalties. The family of the dead mummify their deceased -- even children and infants. They also have no pyramids. The mummies, which were the only relic left by the Chinchorro people, were all discovered outdoors, some buried in desert valleys according to Daily Mail.

"We collected thousands of images with a precision of less than one millimeter," chief radiologist Marcelo Galvez told Agence France-Presse. "The next phase is to try to dissect these bodies virtually, without touching them, which will help us preserve them for another 500,000 years."

Using the mummy CT scans, the researchers are now busy reconstructing the facial and bodily features of the mummies. Galvez added that they want to know the physical appearance of the Chinchorro people. Their DNA and genes are also being studied using skin and hair samples to bring more light to ancient civilizations.

The mummy CT scans also revealed that the smallest mummy discovered was just a figurine. Researchers revealed there was no bone structure inside the mummy and it could just be a representation of an individual who could not be mummified.


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