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

  • Brain Time
    Brain Time

    The days of thinking of time as a river—evenly flowing, always advancing—are over. Time perception, just like vision, is a construction of the brain.

  • British musician Jarvis Cocker reads from Sum
    British musician Jarvis Cocker reads from Sum

    Hear British rocker Jarvis Cocker read the short story "Descent of Species" from Sum.

  • Remembering a trail blazer - Francis Crick
    Remembering a trail blazer - Francis Crick

    Francis Crick, one of the premier biologists of the 20th century, passed away July 28, 2004, in San Diego. On his 88th birthday last June, I brought him chocolates and spent the day with him in his home in La Jolla.

  • 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. 

Newsflashes

Eagleman and Brian Eno bring Sum to Sydney Opera House

In June, 2009, David Eagleman collaborated with musician/producer Brian Eno to perform a musical reading of Sum to 1,000 people at the Sydney Opera House. In May of 2010 they performed together again to 1,200 people at the Brighton Dome in England. Stay tuned for further performances.

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.

How the Internet will save civilization

David's iPad app "Why the Net Matters, or Six Ways to Avert the Collapse of Civilization" was recently called a "superbook" by the New York Times Magazine. For a taste of the argument, read David's article in WIRED or watch a video of his talk at the Long Now Foundation. Don't have an iPad? The manuscript is now available as an eBook.

You are here:   HomeBlogA note about head shape in mummies


Coming Soon