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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 192829, 7 pages
Review Article

Invasive versus Non Invasive Methods Applied to Mummy Research: Will This Controversy Ever Be Solved?

1Department of Histology and Embryology, Medical School, National Kapodistrian University of Athens, 75 M. Asias Street, 11527 Athens, Greece
2The Ancient Egypt Society of Western Australia Inc., P.O. Box 103, Ballajura, WA 6066, Australia
3Division of Paleopathology, Institute of Forensic Science, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul 110-799, Republic of Korea
4Department of Public Health and Paediatric Sciences, Legal Medicine Section, University of Turin, Corso Galileo Galilei 22, 10126 Turin, Italy
5Center for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066, Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
6Anthropologie Bioculturelle, Droit, Ethique et Santé, Faculté de Médecine-Nord, Aix-Marseille Université, 15 boulevard Pierre Dramard, 13344 Marseille Cedex 15, France

Received 18 December 2014; Accepted 21 April 2015

Academic Editor: Timothy G. Bromage

Copyright © 2015 Despina Moissidou et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Advances in the application of non invasive techniques to mummified remains have shed new light on past diseases. The virtual inspection of a corpse, which has almost completely replaced classical autopsy, has proven to be important especially when dealing with valuable museum specimens. In spite of some very rewarding results, there are still many open questions. Non invasive techniques provide information on hard and soft tissue pathologies and allow information to be gleaned concerning mummification practices (e.g., ancient Egyptian artificial mummification). Nevertheless, there are other fields of mummy studies in which the results provided by non invasive techniques are not always self-explanatory. Reliance exclusively upon virtual diagnoses can sometimes lead to inconclusive and misleading interpretations. On the other hand, several types of investigation (e.g., histology, paleomicrobiology, and biochemistry), although minimally invasive, require direct contact with the bodies and, for this reason, are often avoided, particularly by museum curators. Here we present an overview of the non invasive and invasive techniques currently used in mummy studies and propose an approach that might solve these conflicts.