Medical Examination of the Mummy

Under Museum Director Dr. Betsy Bryan’s supervision, the mummy was taken to Johns Hopkins University Hospital in 1988 to undergo medical examination using x-radiography and computed tomography (CT) techniques.  This research was completed in collaboration with Dr. Giraud V. Foster and Dr. Elliot K. Fishman, among others.  When the mummy was first taken to the Hospital, she had been nicknamed “Boris” by Dr. Bryan because her original identity as a woman had been lost over the near century that she had been in Baltimore.  However, medical examination quickly revealed that “Boris” was in fact a woman who had lived to between 45 to 50 years of age.  She had likely carried at least two children to term.  Her weight at time of death was approximately 105 pounds. In keeping with mummification rituals at the time, her brain had been removed through her nostrils for preservation, and her internal organs–including her lungs, liver, stomach and intestines–were removed, wrapped and replaced inside her body.  The mummy’s body had also been dessicated using the salt natron; this white material is still visible on the mummy today.  Her legs show arrested growth lines which seem to indicate a serious childhood illness when she was between 9 and 11 years of age.

In general, the medical examination showed that the ancient woman had been in remarkable physical condition when she passed away at the relatively old age of 45 or 50.  Consistent with her advanced age is evidence of arthritis in the vertebrae at the base of her spine.  Her teeth were in excellent condition with only one impacted wisdom tooth and one missing molar.  Given the well preserved nature of her body, she must have lived a life of some comfort.  There is also no clear indication as to why she died.

Please see also see a video with more details of the medical examination of the the mummy.