A note about head shape in mummies

A few months ago I scanned a 3,000 mummy, as described in my earlier post.  This is just a quick note about his perspicuously elongated skull shape, known as dolicocephy (elongated head).  

First, here's the profile of Neskhons (the mummy I scanned):

Neskhons Profile

Next, here's a shot of two other mummies:

Tut_and_KV55

(photo (c) National Geographic)


You can see the obvious resemblance in all three skulls.  Now here's the kicker.  The bottom-left mummy is King Tut.  The one on the right comes from a scan in 2007 of another mummy found in 2007.  That mummy was speculated to be the body of Tut's missing father Akhenaten -- based in large part on the observation that the skull looks roughly alike.  From the National Geographic news report:

"The CT scan supports the idea that the mummy is Akhenaten by revealing it as a male between the ages of 25 and 40 who shares many physical similarities with Tut—assuming Akhenaten was Tut's father, as some experts believe. The mystery mummy's strange elongated, egg-shaped skull, called dolichocephalic, is strikingly similar to Tutankhamun's."

Unfortunately, that alone is poor evidence, and here's why. Tut lived 350 years before Neskhons, and yet the skull shape is shared: it was common among the Egyptian royals. Therefore, one cannot draw a meaningful conclusions that two mummies are likely to be father and son simply based on an argument that their skulls look alike!   

Leave a comment

From the Blog

  • CNN's Next List - video profile
    CNN's Next List - video profile

    I was recently named a CNN Next List Fellow. Watch two clips from the show.

  • The Brain and the Law
    The Brain and the Law

    Interested in the intersection of the brain and the legal system? Watch a talk I delivered at the Royal Society for the Arts in London, entitled "The Brain and the Law".

  • The Neuroscience of Engagement
    The Neuroscience of Engagement

    Why don't we do what we know we should?  Here's a talk I gave at Stanford Medical School telling why, and what to do about it.

  • Brain Time
    Brain Time

    The days of thinking of time as a river—evenly flowing, always advancing—are over. Time perception, just like vision, is a construction of the brain.

Newsflashes

How the Internet will save civilization

David's iPad app "Why the Net Matters, or Six Ways to Avert the Collapse of Civilization" was recently called a "superbook" by the New York Times Magazine. For a taste of the argument, read David's article in WIRED or watch a video of his talk at the Long Now Foundation. Don't have an iPad? The manuscript is now available as an eBook.

Emily Blunt reads for the Sum audio book

Hear the actress Emily Blunt (Young Victoria, Devil Wears Prada) read "The Cast" from Sum. She is one of the dozens of terrific actors who read for the audio book.

The secret life of the lab

Want to know more about the inner workings of a neuroscience lab? Watch a video profile of David and his students on NOVA Science Now.
Nova Science Now

You are here:   HomeBlogA note about head shape in mummies


Coming in 2014