The Goucher Mummy

Medical Examination

By Sanchita Balachandran

Under the supervision of Betsy Bryan, the Archaeological Museum’s director, this ancient individual 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 individual was first taken to the hospital, her original identity as a woman had been lost over the near century that she had been in Baltimore. However, medical examination revealed the fact that she was biologically female and had likely carried at least two children to term. 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 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 desiccated using the salt natron; this white material is still visible on the mummy today.

In general, the medical examination showed that the ancient woman had been in good health when she passed away at the relatively old age of 45 or 50, weighing a slight 105 pounds. 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.