THE GRUESOME final moments of centuries-old mummies have been uncovered using cutting-edge technology.
In a paper last week, scientists described how they used 3D scans to examine the cause of death of three South American mummies.
One poor soul is believed to have been stabbed in the back after receiving a heavy blow to the head likely dealt by a blunt weapon.
A second is thought to have died as a result of “massive trauma” to the back of his neck.
The mummies were found decades ago but scientists are only now uncovering their secrets.
That’s because new scanning technology is allowing them to peer beneath layers of fabric wrapped around the bodies.
Using 3D computer tomography – the same CT scan you find in hospitals – archaeologists can examine bone, tissue and more.
It means mummies can be analysed in unprecedented detail to pick apart how they might have kicked the bucket.
In the study published in “Frontiers in Medicine” scientists described the examination of three pre-Columbian South American mummies.
The two males and one female are believed to died between 740 and 1120 years ago and were found in Peru and Chile.
According to the report, each was “naturally mummified” and had “good preservation of soft tissues.”
The males were found to have been brutally murdered, dying on the spot from extreme violence, while the female died of natural causes.
According to the researchers, one of the slaughtered men was between 20 and 25 years old and part of a fishing community.
He died from because either “one assaulter hit the victim with full force on the head and [a] second assaulter stab[bed] the victim (who still was standing or kneeing) in the back.”
They added: “Alternatively, the same or another assaulter standing on the right side of the victim struck the head and then turned to the back of the victim and stabbed him.”
Similarly, the second male mummy showed “massive trauma” against the back of the neck, which likely killed him.
“The significant dislocation of the two cervical vertebral bodies itself is lethal and may have led to immediate death,” the authors wrote.
The female died of natural causes, though her scans showed extensive damage to the skeleton.
This is thought to have occurred after death, probably accidentally during her burial.
Scientists highlighted that discoveries such as these were not possible in the recent past, as the technology was not available.
Now, researchers can look at the tissue surrounding bone to uncover new information about the life – and death – of a mummy.
“The availability of modern CT scans with the opportunity for 3D reconstructions offers unique insight into bodies that would otherwise not have been detected,” said Andreas Nerlich, a pathology researcher at the Munich Clinic Bogenhausen and co-author of the study.
“Previous studies would have either destroyed the mummy, while X-rays or older CT scans without three-dimensional reconstruction functions could not have detected the diagnostic key features we found here.”