A note about head shape in mummies

A few months ago I scanned a 3,000 mummy, as described in my earlier post.  This is just a quick note about his perspicuously elongated skull shape, known as dolicocephy (elongated head).  

First, here's the profile of Neskhons (the mummy I scanned):

Neskhons Profile

Next, here's a shot of two other mummies:

Tut_and_KV55

(photo (c) National Geographic)


You can see the obvious resemblance in all three skulls.  Now here's the kicker.  The bottom-left mummy is King Tut.  The one on the right comes from a scan in 2007 of another mummy found in 2007.  That mummy was speculated to be the body of Tut's missing father Akhenaten -- based in large part on the observation that the skull looks roughly alike.  From the National Geographic news report:

"The CT scan supports the idea that the mummy is Akhenaten by revealing it as a male between the ages of 25 and 40 who shares many physical similarities with Tut—assuming Akhenaten was Tut's father, as some experts believe. The mystery mummy's strange elongated, egg-shaped skull, called dolichocephalic, is strikingly similar to Tutankhamun's."

Unfortunately, that alone is poor evidence, and here's why. Tut lived 350 years before Neskhons, and yet the skull shape is shared: it was common among the Egyptian royals. Therefore, one cannot draw a meaningful conclusions that two mummies are likely to be father and son simply based on an argument that their skulls look alike!   

Leave a comment

From the Blog

  • New Scientist time story
    New Scientist time story

    New Scientist magazine recently featured my time perception research as their cover story. 

  • Q & A in New Scientist magazine
    Q & A in New Scientist magazine

    Read a Q&A with David in New Scientist to find out his latest ideas and advice to young scientists.

  • Will Self
    Will Self

    The author Will Self and I appeared on stage together to discuss life, death, and what makes good writing.

  • Scanning a 3,000 year old mummy
    Scanning a 3,000 year old mummy

    I recently performed a CT scan on Neskhons, an Egyptian mummy who I brought to our scanning facilities at Baylor College of Medicine.  

Newsflashes

SUM is Book of the Year: Chicago Tribune

SUM was chosen as the best book of 2009 by Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer-winning literary critic Julia Keller.

Guggenheim Fellowship

David has been named a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. He will use the fellowship opportunity to pursue the genetics and neuroimaging of synesthesia.

6 Ways the Internet Will Save Civilization

Read David's new article in Wired magazine: "Apocalyse? No. Six Ways the Internet Will Save Civilization"

You are here:   HomeBlogA note about head shape in mummies


Coming in 2014