Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 302–311 | Cite as

Virtopsy shows a high status funerary treatment in an early 18th Dynasty non-royal individual

  • Robert D. Loynes
  • Philippe Charlier
  • Philippe Froesch
  • Tobias M. R. Houlton
  • Rudy Lallo
  • Giancarlo Di Vella
  • Raffaella Bianucci
Original Article


This work presents the multidisciplinary investigation of the head of Nebiri (Museo Egizio, Turin S_5109), Chief of Stables, a high status elite person from the 18th Dynasty involving MDCT, 3D brain surface and facial reconstructions accompanied by a consideration of previously presented chemical analysis of the embalming materials found in fragments of bandages used on the head and viscera (lung) found in one of the four canopic jars. Comparison of the techniques used for the cosmetic treatment of Nebiri with those used in other elite and high status non-royal persons confirms the validity of the use of the term “high status elite” in the case of Nebiri. This case highlights the importance of using modern forensic techniques both to enhance new technologies of retrospective diagnosis on altered human remains and to increase knowledge of past populations.


MDCT 3D facial approximation 3D brain surface reconstruction Human remains 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.



Ethical approval

Not needed.


  1. 1.
    Jones J, Higham TFG, Oldfield R, O'Connor TP, Buckley SA. Evidence for prehistoric origins of Egyptian mummification in late Neolithic burials. PLoS One. 2014;9(8):e103608.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ikram S. Death and burial in ancient Egypt. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Shaw I. The Oxford history of ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ikram S, Dodson A. The mummy in ancient Egypt. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press; 1998. pp. 198.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Loynes R. Prepared for eternity. A study of human embalming techniques in ancient Egypt using computed tomography scans of mummies. Oxford: ArcheoPress Egyptology; 2015.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bianucci R, Habicht ME, Buckley SA, Fletcher J, Seiler R, Öhrström LM, et al. Shedding new light on the 18th dynasty mummies of the Royal Architect Kha and his spouse Merit. PLoS One. 2015;10(7):e0131916.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Meskell L. Intimate archaeologies: the case of Kha and Merit. World Archaeol. 1998;29:363–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Meskell L. Archaeologies of life and death. Am J Archaeol. 1999;103:181–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Saleem SN, Hawass Z. Variability in brain treatment during mummification of royal Egyptians dated to the 18th–20th dynasties: MDCT findings correlated with the archaeological literature. Am J Roentgenol. 2013;200:336–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Saleem SN, Hawass Z. Subcutaneous packing in royal Egyptian mummies dated from 18th to 20th dynasties. J Comput Assist Tomogr. 2015;39(3):301–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hawass Z, Saleem SN. Scanning the Pharaos- CT imagining of the new kingdom royal mummies. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press; 2016.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ruehli FJ, Habicht ME, Buckley SB, Bouwman A, Oehrstroem L, Seiler R, et al. “Evidence” in identifying Royal and non-royal mummies: General considerations and a specific example (mummified remains from QV 66; Queen Nefertari). Paper and Poster Abstracts of the International Conference of Egyptology XI, Florence, Italy, 23th–30th August 2015; pp. 134–5.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Martina MC, Cesarani F, Boano R, Donadoni Roveri AM, Ferraris A, Grilletto R, Gandini G. Kha and Merit: multidetector computed tomography and 3D reconstructions of two mummies from the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Journal of Biological Research, Vol LXXX, N. 1, Proceedings V World Congress on Mummy Studies. Rubbettino Editore. 2005; pp. 42–4.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bianucci R, Loynes R, Sutherland ML, Lallo R, Kay GL, Froesch P, et al. Forensic analysis reveals acute decompensation of chronic heart failure in a 3500-year-old Egyptian dignitary. J Forensic Sci. 2016;61(5):1374–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Nerlich AG, Buckley SA, Fletcher J, Caramello S, Bianucci R. An interdisciplinary study of the mummified remains of the 18th dynasty official Nebiri. Abstract book of The Bioarchaeology Conference on Ancient Egypt, Cairo, Egypt 31st Jan-Feb 2nd 2013. J Archaeol Egypt/Egyptology. 2013;10(1):22.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Buckley SA, Nerlich AG, Fletcher J, Caramello S, Vassilika E, Bianucci R. Three 18thDynasty notables in Turin: initial findings of the multidisciplinary investigation of their mummified remains and canopic jar contents. Book of Abstracts of the 8th World Congress on Mummy Studies, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 6th–9th August 2013; pp. 78.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    El-Mehallawi H, Soliman EM. Ultrasonic assessment of facial soft tissue thicknesses in adult Egyptians. Forensic Sci Int. 2001;117:99–107.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wilkinson C. Forensic facial reconstruction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2004.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Helmer R.P. Schädelidentifizierung Durch Elektronische Bildmischung. Heidelberg: Kriminalistik-Verlag; 1984. Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Rynn C, Wilkinson CM, Peters H. Prediction of nasal morphology from the skull. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6(1):20–34.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Davy-Jo SL, Decker SJ, Ford MJ. A simple method of nose tip shape validation for facial approximation. Forensic Sci Int. 2012;214(1–3):208.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Charlier P, Froesch P, Balzeau A, Huynh-Charlier I. 3-dimensional brain surface reconstruction from dried skull: interest for retrospective diagnosis in forensic anthropology. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2014;35(4):283–4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Galaburda AM, LeMay M, Kemper TL, Geschwind N. Right-left asymmetrics in the brain. Science. 1978;199(4332):852–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Balzau A, Gilessen E, Grimaud-Hervé D. Shared pattern of endocranial shape asymmetries among great apes, anatomically modern humans and fossil hominins. PLoS One 2012;7(1):e29581.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
  26. 26.
    Clark KA, Ikram S, Evershed RP. Organic chemistry of balms used in the preparation of pharaonic meat mummies. PNAS. 2013;10(51):20392–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Colombini MP, Modugno F, Silvano F, Onor M. Characterization of the balm of an Egyptian mummy from the seventh century B.C. Stud Conserv. 2000;45:19.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Koller J, Baumer U, Kaup Y, Etspüler H, Weser U. Embalming was used in old kingdom. Nature. 1998;391:343–4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Buckley SA, Evershed RP. Organic chemistry of embalming agents in pharaonic and Graeco-roman mummies. Nature. 2001;413:837–41.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Buckley SA, Clark KA, Evershed RP. Complex organic chemical balms of pharaonic animal mummies. Nature. 2004;431(7006):294–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Buckley SA, Stott AW, Evershed RP. Studies of organic residues from ancient Egyptian mummies using high temperature-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and sequential thermal desorption gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Analyst. 1999;124:443–52.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Koller J, Baumer U, Kaup Y, Schmid M, Weser U. Analysis of a pharaonic embalming tar. Nature. 2003;425:784.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Tchapla A, Méjanelle P, Bleton J, Goursaud S. Characterisation of embalming materials of a mummy of the Ptolemaic era. Comparison with balms from mummies of different eras. J Sep Sci. 2004;27(3):217–34.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Section of Medical and Forensic Anthropology (UVSQ & Paris 5 University E4569)Montigny-Le-BretonneuxFrance
  3. 3.CASH (Centre d’accueil et de soins hospitaliers de Nanterre)NanterreFrance
  4. 4.Human Variation and Identification Research Unit, School of Anatomical Sciences, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  5. 5.Clinica Pinna PintorTurinItaly
  6. 6.Department of Public Health and Paediatric Sciences, Legal Medicine SectionUniversity of TurinTurinItaly
  7. 7.Warwick Medical School, Microbiology and Infection UnitThe University of WarwickCoventryUK
  8. 8.UMR 7268, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie bio-culturelle, Droit, Etique & Santé (Adés)Faculté de Médecine de MarseilleMarseilleFrance

Personalised recommendations