June 2018

European Radiology Experimental Publishes First Comparative Radiological Study of Ancient Egyptian Canopic Jars.


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As a debut in the unique field of paleoradiology, European Radiology EXPERIMENTAL now publishes the first study comparing the major radiological modalities to investigate the content of ancient Egyptian canopic jars. Having found CT is the non-invasive modality of choice, also for these unique samples, is an important finding, which may impact professionals’ approach to studying mummified human soft tissue.

For the very first time, the three standard clinical imaging modalities (X-ray, CT, and MRI) were compared to research the content of ancient Egyptian canopic jars in a study published by the journal European Radiology EXPERIMENTAL.

“Surprisingly, ancient Egyptian canopic jars — containing precious mummified human internal organs — have been mostly neglected in biomedical research so far. This despite their unique value to contribute to the understanding of the ongoing evolution of diseases”, says Prof. Frank Rühli, Director of the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine and senior author of this study.

"We explored the general feasibility and diagnostic sensitivity of the three main state-of-the-art diagnostic methods in paleoradiology as applicable on such unique samples” adds Dr. Patrick Eppenberger, first author of the study.

CT non-invasive modality of choice
This study concludes CT is the modality of choice for non-invasive investigation of ancient Egyptian canopic jars, seeing that it provides the best diagnostic image quality. X-ray however, often remains the only practicable method for paleoradiological applications, as the portable equipment can be brought onsite, such as to a museum or in the field.

The study’s findings are especially useful to professionals seeking to non-invasively research the ancient canopic jars. For instance, to museum curators, selecting which canopic jars with original sealing are worthy of sampling for further invasive research such as molecular analyses.

This study is part of the Canopic Jar Project at the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zürich, and is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Mäxi Foundation.

Ancient Egyptian canopic jars
Canopic jars such as investigated in this study stem from the ancient Egyptian period between 2700 and 300 B.C. and contain internal organs considered essential for the mummies’ afterlife, which were removed from the body in the mummification procedure to avoid putrefaction. The so-called ‘bioarcheological specimens’ also often include a variety of non-human materials such as embalming materials or body adornments, the study of which is known under the term of paleoradiology.

European Radiology EXPERIMENTAL
The ESR journal European Radiology EXPERIMENTAL is fully open access and was founded in 2016. Its focus lies on the experimental setting and basic science. The first and current Editor-in-Chief of European Radiology EXPERIMENTAL is Prof. Francesco Sardanelli from Milan, Italy.

Read and cite this article: Patrick E. Eppenberger; Mislav Cavka; Michael E. Habicht; Francesco M. Galassi and Frank Rühli (2018) Radiological findings in ancient Egyptian canopic jars: comparing three standard clinical imaging modalities (X-rays, CT and MRI) Eur Radiol Exp 2:12