Forwarding video announcement

Gary Handman (
Tue, 9 Nov 1999 10:59:43 -0800 (PST)

> Dead for thousands of years, three linen-wrapped bodies from Luxor
>in Egypt were recently wheeled into the quiet halls of Sydney University's
>Nicholson Museum for a 20th century autopsy. The mummies have been resting
>in a storeroom at the museum for over 130 years. Now they are to be
>studied for the first time, and they may shed light not only onancient
>illness but on modern diseases, including cancer.
> The mummies are a songstress, named Meruah, who dates to about
>1,000 BC; a priest called Pediashakhet, from 700 BC; and a girl, aged
>between 10 and 12, from the second century AD. In May 1998, a team of four
>scientists used an endoscope, a tool of keyhole surgery, to look inside the
>abdomens and heads of the mummies.
> Mark Spigelman, a former Sydney surgeon working as a physical
>anthropologist in London, and his brother Allan, professor of surgical
>science at Newcastle University, removed a tiny amount of tissue from the
>chest and abdominal cavities to examine DNA preserved, they hope, by
>ancient Egyptian embalmers. "Just a gram or two," Mark Spigelman says,
>holding up a tiny plastic vial. "That's enough to find what we are looking
> The first priority of the autopsy was to avoid damaging the
>mummies. The examination involved transporting the mummies by funeral van
>to a suburban clinic to undergo CAT scans and x-rays. Later brothers, Mark
>and Allan, in green theatre coats, performed a post-mortem examination
>using an endoscope.
> One exciting moment came with the examination of the priest,
>Pediashakhet where CAT scans revealed that his brain had been left in
>place. This rich source of tissue was reached by the surgeons via the eye
>socket with no damage to the mummy. Inside the skull were further
>surprises. Resting under the brain was a human incisor tooth and there is
>no way it could get into the skull, without outside help. Very likely the
>tooth had come loose during mummification prompting an embalmer to pop it
>into the skull - out of sight for nearly three thousand years.
> The material the researchers collected during the autopsy will
>allow them to study ancient diseases in a way that could help modern
>medicine to treat today's disease. They hope traces of cancer, syphilis,
>tuberculosis, cholera and malaria may be found in the mummies. Assistant
>curator of the Nicholson Museum, Karin Sowada, says the studies are
>invaluable. "These kind of studies help us gain an insight into the ancient
>world. They help us understand ancient diseases, the conditions people
>lived in, and the process of mummification." Or as Allan Spigelman asks,
>"Is the bacteria of 3000 years ago similar to today's? What can they tell
>us about how to treat today's bacteria? You've got to know your enemy".
>The video UNDER WRAPS follows this examination in detail. Meet the
>principal researchers, learn about the process of mummification and
>journey, literally, inside Pediashakhet's skull!
> Length: 30 minutes
> Price: $29.95 plus shipping & handling
> UNDER WRAPS is a video production of Astarte Resources and is
>distributed exclusively in the United States and Canada by the Institute
>for Mediterranean Studies.
>For additional information contact the Institute for Mediterranean Studies:
>7086 East Aracoma Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45237
>telephone (513) 631-8049; fax (513) 631-1715; e-mail:
Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000

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