SCRANTON, Pa. – The Everhart Museum and Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) are using modern technology to bring life to a centuries-old Peruvian mummy that has been taken out of storage to be briefly featured in the exhibition Preserved: Traditions of the Andes.
Dr. G. E Hill, a prominent dentist from the Scranton area, donated the mummy to the Everhart Museum in 1923. Based on archival records, Dr. Hill received the mummy from his father following a stint in Peru. Other than that, very little is known about the mummy although it has been identified as belonging to the Paracas culture one of the oldest cultures of South America dating back to 800 – 100 B.C. The mummy was last on view in the 1990s.
Museum neighbor GCMC offered to use its technology to help answer some of those unknowns. Because the fragile mummy is in the fetal position and enclosed in a sealed glass case, Geisinger experts could not use CT scan technology. However, the X-ray method worked. Here are findings from Dana R. Jackson, M.D., diagnostic and forensic radiologist at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital:
The estimated age of the mummy is late teens, and while the pelvis wasn’t visible, the interorbital distance and shape of the orbits suggest the biological sex is male.
He is about 5 feet tall, which fits with the Peruvian stature at the time.
He didn’t have any broken bones, but abnormal calcifications in the spine indicate a metabolic disorder.
His toes are missing, which could have resulted from excessive handling of the body post mummification. Alternatively, they may have been amputated due to infection or frostbite.
He is wrapped in layers of fabric, with an impression of the textile on his knee.
“This was certainly the first mummy I’ve ever encountered. I think we made some interesting observations and contributed to answering some of the museum’s questions,” said Dr. Scott A. Sauerwine, medical director for Geisinger Radiology.
“Evaluation of the mummy was akin to investigating a detective mystery. Dr. Sauerwine and I both enjoyed evaluating the mummified remains,” said Dr. Jackson. “Sharing and discussing our findings with each other, I believe yielded a comprehensive, respectful and significant evaluation of the decedent.”
Preserved: Traditions of the Andes was on display March 9 through April 7 and open to the public on weekends. Traditions of ancient Andean cultures will be explored through photography, textiles, ceramics, tools and burial practices. Photography is not allowed.
“We have some new research and information, and so we thought it would be a good time to showcase the mummy and some of the other South American artifacts from our collection,” Everhart Museum Curator Francesca Saldan said.
Through the study of the mummy and the objects on view, the exhibition will also focus on the topic of preservation and the science behind it as well as addressing issues that face indigenous Andean communities today. Visitors will be encouraged to participate and consider how our society may be presented one day in futuristic times.
“Mummies have long been fascinating,” said Executive Director Aurore Giguet. “Peruvian mummification traditions started seven thousand years ago, that’s much earlier than in Egypt, and lasted until the Spanish conquest 500 years ago.”
For information on hours of operation and admission, visit https://everhart-museum.org/exhibitions-2/