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Mummies to undergo CT scans at Iowa hospital

The Putnam Museum is sending two of its mummies on a field trip in hopes of learning more about their history.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Putnam Museum is sending two of its mummies on a field trip in hopes of learning more about their history.

The mummies, described as among the Davenport museum's most prized and popular possessions, will be carefully removed from their cases on Tuesday and taken by ambulance to Genesis Medical Center's West Central Park Avenue Campus, where they will undergo CT scans.

The scans, being donated by the hospital, are expected to reveal new information about the mummies, such as their ages, genders and maybe even how they died.

"I've never seen them out of their cases," said Eunice Schlichting, the museum's chief curator. "We're so excited. The stars must be aligned or something."

One of the mummies, believed to be 3,000 years old, is named Isis and rests in the museum's lower gallery. Another unnamed mummy rests beside Isis and also will be tested.

The museum hopes to post new information about their history by November, when the mummies will be placed in new humidity controlled cases and their displays updated with new interactive features.

That would coincide with the opening of a new interactive exhibit about Egypt and mummification.

The mummy named Isis was donated to the museum in 1965 by the estate of B.J. Palmer, who purchased the mummy, which is unwrapped in his case, on a trip to Egypt in or around the 1920s. The unnamed mummy remains wrapped, so Schlichting hopes the scans will provide new information about its origin.

Curators will carefully open the cases and wrap the mummies in a plastic-like sheet, meant to capture any salts or pollen samples that can be used for later analysis. The mummies will then be padded with rolls of ethafoam to protect them from bumps along the way.

Once they are wrapped, the mummies will be carefully loaded onto stretchers and taken to the hospital for the scans.

"We have done a lot of research about how best to handle the move," Schlichting said. "We think the benefits far outweigh the risks."