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Siemens CT Scanner Reveals Mysteries inside Egyptian Relic


The bust of Nefertiti stored at Berlin’s Altes Museum, is one of the most renowned works of ancient Egyptian sculpture. Fifteen years ago, a computed tomography (CT) scan of the bust revealed that a second structure was hidden inside. This structure was presumed to be a cast of the subject’s face, but the image resolution was too poor to be conclusive. With recent advances in CT scanning, researchers called for a repeat scan to document the structure within the bust. Results of the scan, which was conducted using a Siemens Medical Solutions ( SOMATOM(R) Sensation 64-Slice CT, are included in a National Geographic Channel special that will premiere tonight.

“I have always been interested in the secret carried inside that bust. But it is also very difficult and hazardous to examine ancient artifacts without damaging them,” said Prof. Dietrich Wildung, director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.

With the help of one of Siemens’ highest resolution CT scanners, Prof. Wildung and Alexander Huppertz, MD, head of the Imaging Science Institute in Berlin, as well as the National Geographic team, were able to X-ray the bust without damaging it.

“Our technology is intended to improve the medical care of patients around the world. However, we are happy to contribute to efforts that explain the mysteries of archaeology,” said Bernd Montag, president, Siemens Medical Solutions, Computed Tomography. “We scanned the mummy of Tutankhamen two years ago and we are now helping with another ancient Egyptian treasure.”

Researchers who conducted the original CT scan of Nefertiti assumed that the bust’s limestone core would more accurately approximate the subject’s face. After the facial mold was cast, the limestone core was coated with plaster and painted. Prof. Wildung said that the portrait on the coat of plaster is not very representative and that the bust itself is of greater value in determining the features of the subject.

Nefertiti and the Lost Dynasty, premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel, check local listings for more information.


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