Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 15:41 UK

Patient aged 2,500 in for tests

Mummy being inserted into scanner
Tahemaa's ancient rags are in acute contrast with scanner's modern lines

A team of radiographers at a London university have been preoccupied with a patient somewhat older than most - 2,500-year old Egyptian mummy Tahemaa.

Specialists at City University in Islington, north London, used a CT scanner to learn more about how she died without damaging the corpse.

They discovered that, unusually, the brain had been left inside the mummy - suggesting an apprentice embalmed her.

Tahemaa lived in a temple in Luxor, southern Egypt, and died aged about 28.


What we know about Taheema:

Tahemaa was alive at about 650 BC

She lived on the banks of the Nile in Luxor, a spiritual centre

Both Tahemaa and her father worked at a temple

She was in good health when she died suddenly at 28

Jayne Morgan, a senior lecturer in radiography at City University London, led the team.

She said: "It is the first time I have had such an old patient.

"But you suddenly realise you are still scanning a human being - even if it is 2,500 years old.

"You scan it in exactly the same way as a human patient.

"But because the mummy is stationary it gives you less problems with movement."

Ms Morgan said the team's principle emotion was wonder.

"The brain was still completely intact", said Ms Morgan. "We could see a fracture in her leg bone in very fine detail."

Mask of Tahemaa
This artist's impression of Tahemaa suggests how she may have looked

The scanner, usually used to train would-be radiographers, is valued at nearly £1m.

It uses radiation to provide high resolution images of the body - and cast fresh light on the "health" of Tahemaa, who is owned by the Bournemouth Natural Sciences Society.

Researchers discovered her thigh bone was broken after death.

Apart from the poor condition of her teeth - shared by many Ancient Egyptians owing to the tough bread they ate - Tahemaa was in good physical condition when she died.

The team were unable to establish what killed her, though they dispelled a previous belief she may have suffered a blow to the face.

A scan carried out 16 years ago showed a mark across the face - but the far more advanced equipment used today revealed it as nothing but fuzz on the image.


The mummy is being examined by researchers

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