British Museum blog

Virtual autopsy: discover how the ancient Egyptian Gebelein Man died

Scan of Gebelein Man shown on an autopsy tableDaniel Antoine, Curator of Physical Anthropology,
British Museum

In recent months the naturally-preserved mummy known as Gebelein Man (on display in Room 64, the Early Egypt gallery at the British Museum) has been revealing some of his long-held secrets.

Gebelein Man, Predynastic period, around 3500 BC

Gebelein Man, Predynastic period, around 3500 BC

He was buried in about 3500 BC (if not earlier) at the site of Gebelein in Upper Egypt. Direct contact with the hot, dry sand naturally mummified his body, making him one of the best-preserved individuals from ancient Egypt. He has been in the British Museum collection for over 100 years and in 2012 he was taken out of the Museum for the first time to be CT scanned.

On the morning of 1 September this year, Gebelein Man was carefully packed and taken to the Bupa Cromwell Hospital in London. The detailed images and 3D models created from the high resolution X-rays taken there have allowed us to look inside his body and learn more about his life and his death in ways never before possible. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time that a well-preserved Predynastic mummy has ever been CT scanned.

Not only have we been able to discover that Gebelein Man was young when he died (18-21 years) but, unexpectedly, we have also learned that he died because he was stabbed in the back. The analysis of ancient human remains rarely reveals the cause of death but the cut on his back, as well as the damage to the underlying shoulder blade and rib, are characteristic of a single, fatal, penetrating wound.

With the help of the Interactive Institute, a virtual autopsy table (a new state-of-the-art interactive exhibit based on medical visualisation technology) is on show in Room 64 for a limited time (16 November to 16 December 2012) and will let visitors explore this natural mummy for themselves, using the interactive touchscreen and the gesture-based interface. Information points at relevant locations guide visitors to the more significant discoveries we have made.

Exploring the scans of Gebelein Man on the interactive screen

Exploring the scans of Gebelein Man on the interactive screen

Come and explore Gebelein Man for yourself using the autopsy table and perhaps you will spot something we’ve missed.

Virtual autopsy: explore a natural mummy from early Egypt is on display in Room 64 until 3 March 2013
Tweet using #murder3500BC and @britishmuseum
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Filed under: Archaeology, At the Museum, Collection, Egypt and Sudan, Research, , , ,

10 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. That looks amazing! I wish Iived on the same continent.


  2. ritaroberts says:

    This is fantastic. So much to be learned now we have modern technology.


  3. ritaroberts says:

    Reblogged this on Ritaroberts's Blog and commented:
    So much to be learned now we have modern technology. This is a very interesting story.


  4. A fine exhibit. I have little hope, however, that the case will ever be solved.


  5. Lana says:

    i saw this with my school


  6. I heard the clip on BBC’s Click Online this morning, what an amazing use of this technique in archaeology. A sorry I will miss the exhibit!


  7. Tindal Sam says:

    Hi – is it too late to visit this? The text says the interactive display is on show until 16 Dec but the bit below about Twitter says until 3 March 2012 – which is right, or can just some of it be seen now?


  8. Tindal Sam says:

    sorry – meant 3 March 2013!


  9. afaf wahba says:

    sorry it is late, but it is amazing, finely the man tells us his story and some of his secrets. we need to know more about him.


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