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

  • The science of de- and re-humanization
    The science of de- and re-humanization

    Why do groups of people inflict violence on unarmed neighbors? (Germany, Rwanda, Darfur, Nanking....). Here's the neuroscience point of view.

  • Profile in The New Yorker
    Profile in The New Yorker

    I had the pleasure of being profiled by my favorite magazine, The New Yorker.  Read the article here.

  • Schwarzenegger on Incognito
    Schwarzenegger on Incognito

    What a wonderful shot of caffeine it was to find my childhood hero lauding my book in the New York Times.

  • Perception on TNT
    Perception on TNT

    I am the scientific advisor for the TNT television drama, Perception, starring Eric McCormack and Rachael Leigh Cook. Learn more about the show.

Newsflashes

NY Times Oped

Read David's Op-Ed piece in The New York Times regarding time and Obama's withdrawal plan.

Science Educator Award

David has won the Science Educator Award from the Society of Neuroscience.

Eagleman TEDx talk

See David Eagleman's TEDx talk entitled "The Future of Reality"

You are here:   HomeBlogA note about head shape in mummies


Coming in 2014