By the time of the Egyptian New Kingdom (1550-1069 BCE), tomb robbers had already been operating for many years. Priests moved royal mummies from their tombs and reburied them in caches, often without their funeral goods. How do we find the identities of these mummies, uncovered in the 1900’s and distributed to museums across the globe? In Scanning the Pharaohs—CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies , Zahi Hawass and Sahar N. Saleem use high-definition CT scanning and DNA analysis to answer this question.
This book is full of mystery. Which mummy is Hatshepsut, the woman who ruled Egypt like a man? How can we identify King Tut’s parents and grandparents? Who died young? Who lived for 92 years? Who was murdered?
I would subtitle this book as “All you ever wanted to know about mummies.” There are in-depth explanations of the process of mummification, stories of tombs great and small, and anecdotes about archaeologists and tomb robbers. The most enjoyable parts of the books are called Sidelights, which give us special looks at individual Pharaohs the history of their reigns. The photographs are breathtaking, and the X-ray and CT images, particularly the 3-D reconstructions, are amazing.
The science is explained at several levels, appealing to both medical and non-medical readers. The Egyptology is flawless. There are discussions of genetics, injury, and disease, war and peace, jealousy and familial love—all the components of a richly vibrant civilization of the past.
As a child, I often curled up with books of Egyptology, finding them endlessly fascinating. The adult me loves this book just as much.
MAUREEN HIRTHLER is a physician and holds an MFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her work has appeared in several journals, most recently in the Yale Journal of Medical Humanities, Hospital Drive, and Hippocampus, and is forthcoming in Touch and the Mulberry Fork Review. Her piece, “D/D” appeared in the Fall 2014 Intima.