March 9, 2021

A score of Guanche mummies ‘undergo’ a CT scan – La Provincia


The museums of the Cabildo of Tenerife , the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Ulpgc) and the Hospiten Group have managed to join forces to undertake one of the largest medical imaging research projects on mummified human remains in the world till the date.

This is a project in which digitalization is being carried out using image technologies of more than twenty copies that are exhibited or preserved in the MUNA, Museum of Nature and Archeology of Tenerife.

Already in the year 1990, the Archaeological Museum of Tenerife – now integrated in the MUNA – made the first studies of this type, which gives it a leading role by being pioneers in the international scientific scene.

Museums of Tenerife, the Hospiten Group -which has high-tech diagnostic equipment, such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography, as well as specialized personnel in these systems- and the Ulpgc collaborate in a program on paleoimage of the Guanche mummies as part of the Interreg MACbioIDi project work plan.

“The interinstitutional collaboration and between public and private sector are fundamental for the development of innovative and high quality scientific projects, especially those that require the use of high technology,” underlines the Minister of Museums, Concepción Rivero.

This program, one of the most ambitious carried out in the world to date due to the volume of copies studied, is being digitized using imaging technologies of the mummified Guanche remains that the museum has.

The project is directed by the teacher Manuel Maynar (Hospiten and scientific director of the Chair of Medical Technologies of the Ulpgc), the professor Juan Ruiz Alzola (Professor of the Ulpgc and coordinator of MACbioIDi), who will manage the technical, health and teaching aspects, and the director of the Canary Institute of Bioantropology and the Archaeological Museum of Tenerife (both located in the MUNA), the doctor Conrado Rodríguez-Maffiotte Martín, responsible for subsequent bioanthropological and paleopathological studies.

The objectives pursued by these studies, which do not involve any physical deterioration as they are non-invasive techniques, are multiple. On the one hand, have digital data that facilitate research in relation to skeletal and soft tissue pathology of the ancient inhabitants of Tenerife and, on the other, to check bioantropological data and serve as a tool to observe the method of indigenous mummification (it has been come to corroborate the non-existence of viscera extraction and the presence of natural mummies).

Likewise, these techniques allow to deepen the analysis of the state of conservation and study the procedures of adaptation and manipulation to which the mummies were subjected between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for public exposure. In addition, they help in the realization of digital reconstructions, using advanced audiovisual techniques, including virtual reality, which facilitate both in-person and virtual museum dissemination.

These interdisciplinary studies, of which scientific publications are being produced to be presented internationally, are carried out at times that do not present interference with the hospital’s assistance work and specialists in image, paleopathology, biological and forensic anthropology participate, conservation and computing, working in a coordinated way.

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