A paleoimaging study of human mummies held in the mother church of Gangi, Sicily: Implications for mass casualty methodology

Bioarcheological analysis and forensic imaging of human mummies using KUBTEC system to obtain high-resolution X-ray images using a non-destructive technique.

Examination of human remains in archaeological contexts presents significant challenges. They are frequently located within sites of religious and cultural significance and this, coupled with their often-fragile nature, necessitates their examination in situ. These sites may also be in remote locations which present major logistical

challenges. The strategies developed to overcome these challenges have implications for the management of postmortem imaging examinations following mass casualty events in remote areas. This paper presents the paleoimaging and bioarchaeological analysis of 36 mummies within the burial chambers of the mother church of Saint Nicholas of Bari in Gangi, Sicily. Research questions included assessments of the state of external and internal preservation, age at death, mummification method, presence of pathologies and trauma, and the nature of the wax masks. Circumstances dictated that examination of the mummies should take place within the burial chamber and within a short time-frame. Methodology employed macroscopic examination and a multimodal imaging approach including photography, endoscopy, XRF, and two portable digital radiography stations. The methodological design adopted improved efficiency and efficacy. The use of two digital radiography stations for separate AP and lateral survey radiographs greatly improved throughput and minimized lifting and handling of the remains. All examinations (602 radiographs) were completed within under 15 hours. The methodology is an efficient model for studies in similar bioarchaeological.

Ronald G. Beckett, Gerald J. Conlogue, Mark D. Viner, Sahar N. Saleem, Ahmed Hesham Said, Dario Piombino-Mascali.


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