Image: Murrell and Nystrom
Paulo Fridman  /  Discovery Channel
University of New Mexico doctoral students James Murrell and Ken Nystrom examine a mummy at the National Museum of Rio in Brazil.
updated 12/7/2004 3:31:03 PM ET 2004-12-07T20:31:03

Two doctoral students from the University of New Mexico will star in the Discovery Channel's new show "Mummy Autopsy."

James Murrell, a radiologic technologist, and Ken Nystrom, a biological anthropologist, traveled around the world to conduct research on mummies for the show.

Murrell, who is majoring in organizational learning and instructional technology, is the series' medical imaging expert. Nystrom, an anthropology major, is one of the series' two biological archaeologists. The shows also feature two physical anthropologists.

The episodes focus on recently discovered mummies from places such as Italy, Brazil and Bolivia, and tries to piece together what their lives were like before they died, the researchers said.

"We hope it gives people a glimpse of a world they wouldn't otherwise see," Nystrom said.

Artificial vs. natural
An interesting feature, Nystrom said, is the difference between artificially produced mummies, such as an Egyptian mummy, and naturally occurring mummies. He said artificially produced mummies give anthropologists an idea of the culture's view on life after death.

The right balance of acidity is needed in the soil to preserve the body of a naturally occurring mummy, Murrell said.

"For each episode they would pose a question to us and we would attempt to find an answer," Murrell said. "We did CT scans, looked at bones and came up with biological profiles with things like age, sex and cause of death."

The 13-episode series of hourlong shows is broken into half-hour segments, most of which include Murrell, Nystrom and three other scientists.

"Mummy Autopsy" premieres Tuesday on the Discovery Channel.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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