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Brain removal tool found in ancient mummy's skull

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 17th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As all elementary school students who collect gross historic folklore know, the mummies in ancient Egypt had their brains scraped out prior to burial with an especially heinous "nose picking" device, which went up the nose and directly into the brain. Archaeologists have now found such a tool inside the skull of a mummy. It's only the second time in the history of Egyptology that such a discovery has been made.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The tool was found in the 2,400-year-old carcass of a 40-year-old woman by what was presumed was a bungling embalmer. 

The three-inch object initially caused bafflement among researchers over what it was. After carrying out CT scans, scientists found the instrument between the left parietal bone and the back of the skull, which had been filled with resin during the mummification.

The team used an endoscope, which is a thin tube often used for noninvasive medical procedures to detach the tool from the resin to which it was stuck.

Examiners say that Egyptian embalmers would have inserted it through a hole punched in the skull near to the nose, and used it to liquefy and remove the brain.
 
Dr. Mislav Cavka, of the University Hospital Dubrava in Zagreb Croatia, explained the tool was cut using a clamp through the endoscope.

"Some parts (of the brain) would be wrapped around this stick and pulled out, and the other parts would be liquefied," Cavka says.

The mummy would then be turned on to its front and the liquid drained through the nose hole. "It is an error that [the] embalmers left this stick in the skull," she said.

The mistake made thousands of years ago has helped researchers to understand the ancient embalming process.

The tool was made from plants in the group Monocotyledon, which includes forms of palm and bamboo, which may have been used instead of metal as it was less expensive.

The only other brain-removal stick found inside a mummy's skull dates back 2,200 years and was made from a similar type of material.

The mummy is currently in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb Croatia, where it has been since the 19th century without a coffin. It is not known where the woman was from or how she died.

"It is known that mummification was widely practiced throughout ancient Egyptian civilization, but it was a time-consuming and costly practice.

"Thus, not every­one could afford to perform the same mummifi­cation procedure," the researchers wrote in the article.

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