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

  • Time to End the War on Drugs?
    Time to End the War on Drugs?

    To liberalise or prohibit?  I recently joined Eliot Spitzer, Julian Assange, Vicente Fox, Russell Brand, Richard Branson and several others for an online debate.

  • Ten books I love
    Ten books I love

    I was recently asked to list ten books that have "inspired, moved, and enlightened" me. Here's my list:

  • Why public dissemination of science matters
    Why public dissemination of science matters

    Communicating science to the public can take time away from a busy research career. So why should scientists do it? I offer a manifesto of six reasons in the Journal of Neuroscience. 

  • The Brain and the Law
    The Brain and the Law

    Interested in the intersection of the brain and the legal system? Watch a talk I delivered at the Royal Society for the Arts in London, entitled "The Brain and the Law".

Newsflashes

SUM at the Royal Opera House

ROHSUM has been turned into an opera at the Royal Opera House in London (Composer: Max Richter, Director: Wayne McGregor). The London Evening Standard hails the opera as "immersive, meditative and sweetly fascinating". Read about the background of the collaboration in Wired.

Neurolaw: The Brain on Trial

Want to know how neuroscience will force major changes in our criminal justice system? Read David's article The Brain on Trial in The Atlantic. Now anthologized in 2012 Best American Science and Nature Writing.
atlantic072011

McGovern Award for excellence in Communication

David was honored to receive the 2014 John J. McGovern Award for Excellence in Biomedical Education from the American Medical Writers' Assocation. Noted past recipients include authors Oliver Sacks and Abraham Verghese.

You are here:   HomeBlogA note about head shape in mummies


Coming in 2014