A CT scan of an ancient Egyptian child's mummified body has revealed a spearlike object within the upper spine and skull, but scientists say they do not know whether that is what killed the child.
"They don't know if that was the cause of death or if the embalmers did that to keep the head steady in the sarcophagus," said Ellen James, spokeswoman for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
The scan done Wednesday at a Pittsburgh hospital also revealed that the child, who lived more than 2,000 years ago, was likely between 3 and 5 years old, younger than previously thought. X-rays done in 1986 had led scientists to believe that the child was about 8 years old.
The earlier scan also showed that the child had an unusually large head, and James said researchers still don't know what caused the abnormality. Scientists are also could not confirm the sex of the child.
"Overall, nothing too earth-shattering was found, but they are really pleased with the clarity of the scan and there is a lot of rich material to work with in the next few months," James said.
Scientists say they got good images of bone structure and the child's face and hope to someday have a facial reconstruction on display at the museum, James said.
The mummy of the child, who lived sometime between 380 B.C. and 250 B.C., dates back to the Ptolemaic Dynasty — descendants of Greek generals, of which Cleopatra was the last ruler — and was acquired by the museum in 1912.
It has been on display at the Pittsburgh museum since 1989.