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Scenes from the past: MR imaging versus CT of ancient Peruvian and Egyptian mummified tissues


Öhrström, L; Von Waldburg, H; Speier, P; Bock, M; Rühli, F R (2013). Scenes from the past: MR imaging versus CT of ancient Peruvian and Egyptian mummified tissues. Radiographics, 33(1):291-296.

Abstract

Ancient Egyptian and Peruvian mummies are extremely valuable historical remains, and noninvasive methods for their examination are desirable. The current standard of reference for radiologic imaging of mummies is computed tomography (CT), with tissue having a homogeneous appearance on all CT images. It was long believed that ancient mummified tissue could not be studied with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging because of the low water content in mummies. Recently, however, the usefulness of MR imaging in the evaluation of mummified tissue was demonstrated for the first time, with use of a special ultrashort echo time technique. The authors of the present study acquired and analyzed MR imaging and CT data from the left hands of two ancient Egyptian mummies and the head of a third Egyptian mummy (ca 1500-1100 bce), as well as data from an ancient Peruvian mummy (ca 1100 ce). CT was found to provide superior detail of the anatomic structures, mainly because of its higher spatial resolution. The signal intensity of mummified tissue varied greatly on MR images; thus, the quality of these images is not yet comparable to that of clinical MR images, and further research will be needed to determine the full capacity of MR imaging in this setting. Nevertheless, additional information may theoretically be obtained with MR imaging, which should be viewed as complementary to, rather than a replacement for, CT.

Abstract

Ancient Egyptian and Peruvian mummies are extremely valuable historical remains, and noninvasive methods for their examination are desirable. The current standard of reference for radiologic imaging of mummies is computed tomography (CT), with tissue having a homogeneous appearance on all CT images. It was long believed that ancient mummified tissue could not be studied with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging because of the low water content in mummies. Recently, however, the usefulness of MR imaging in the evaluation of mummified tissue was demonstrated for the first time, with use of a special ultrashort echo time technique. The authors of the present study acquired and analyzed MR imaging and CT data from the left hands of two ancient Egyptian mummies and the head of a third Egyptian mummy (ca 1500-1100 bce), as well as data from an ancient Peruvian mummy (ca 1100 ce). CT was found to provide superior detail of the anatomic structures, mainly because of its higher spatial resolution. The signal intensity of mummified tissue varied greatly on MR images; thus, the quality of these images is not yet comparable to that of clinical MR images, and further research will be needed to determine the full capacity of MR imaging in this setting. Nevertheless, additional information may theoretically be obtained with MR imaging, which should be viewed as complementary to, rather than a replacement for, CT.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Anatomy
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 12:24
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 04:48
Publisher:Radiological Society of North America
ISSN:0271-5333
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1148/rg.331125711
PubMed ID:23322842

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