MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Aug. 3 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Two thousand years
ago in the sands of Egypt, grieving parents put their tiny child to rest in a
way that was customary even during the time of Christ. They removed all of the
youth's organs except for the heart, packed the remains in salt to cure them,
and wrapped them in linen coated with perfumed resin. Like all Egyptians of
the age, they were certain that their careful efforts would prepare their
loved one to someday come back to life.
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Today in Silicon Valley, a team of world-renowned experts proved those
parents right -- although the mummy's high-tech resurrection may not quite be
what ancient Egyptians had in mind.
In a press conference at the headquarters of Silicon Graphics (NYSE: SGI),
researchers allowed attendees to literally come face to face with the rare
mummified remains of the ancient Egyptian child. Equipped with the most
detailed 3D models ever created of a mummy, the team of experts showed how
60,000 exceptionally high-resolution 2D scans helped them give life to the
mummy without disturbing its delicate form.
The result is the highest quality interactive visualization of a mummy
ever seen -- one that allowed specialists in various fields from Stanford
University School of Medicine and the Stanford-NASA National Biocomputation
Center to arrive at several conclusions about the child who lived and died
2,000 years ago.
Curators at San Jose's Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium, which
has housed the mummy since about 1930, have named the child Sherit, an ancient
Egyptian name that means "little one."
History-making scan and visualization
For the project, radiologists at Stanford University School of Medicine
used an AXIOM Siemens scanner, one of only five CT scanners in the world
capable of producing such high-resolution images. Stanford Radiology's state-
of-the-art scanner generated 2D slices as thin as 200 microns -- several times
thinner than the 750-micron slices used to create the popular 3D visualization
of King Tutankhamen's mummy. In fact, at 92GB, Stanford Radiology's child
mummy scans generated nearly 35 times more information than the scans
conducted on King Tut.
To combine that information into a fully interactive 3D model of the
entire mummy and its contents, researchers relied on the powerful Silicon
Graphics Prism(TM) visualization platform with Intel(R) Itanium(R) 2
processors running VGL(R) software from Germany's Volume Graphics GmbH. With
Volume Graphics' real-time ray tracing technology -- similar to that used to
create hit animated motion pictures -- researchers were able to generate a 3D
model of incomparable quality and fidelity.
After conducting detailed analyses of several areas -- including the
hands, teeth, feet, skull, groin, spine and chest plate -- researchers were
able to arrive several conclusions about the mummy. Among them:
* Sherit was a female who was between 41/2 and 51/2 years old when she
* Her remains show no signs of injury, which suggests she likely died from
a common intestinal illness or other disease (in fact, half of all Egyptian
children died before their fifth year); and
* Scented resin was mixed and applied on the mummy's golden face mask, a
sign that her family was wealthy.
"Real anatomy exists in three dimensions, so any time you can view
anatomical data in 3D, you'll have a much more accurate picture of the
subject," said Paul Brown, DDS, of the Stanford-NASA National Biocomputation
Center. Brown and a team of fellow dentists, orthodontists and oral surgeons
determined the mummy's age and other features by studying the 3D
visualization. "Even multiple two-dimensional CT slices can never allow you to
understand a subject's dental condition as quickly or as accurately as a
quality 3D visualization."
According to Brown, high-resolution scanning and visualization technology
already is transforming medical, dental and orthodontic procedures, with
specialists using them to speed diagnoses, plan surgeries and predict growth
patterns. Technologies like the ones used on the child mummy will only
accelerate those advances.
"I've worked with high-resolution 3D visualizations for years," added
Brown, who has performed more than 35,000 root canals and today conducts
research at Stanford and teaches at two other California universities. "By
far, this is the best visualization I've ever seen. There is no comparison."
"Mummy visualizations are certainly growing more prevalent, but in terms
of enabling technology, nothing else comes close to the quality, resolution
and interactivity that we've achieved with SGI visualization systems," said
Lisa Schwappach-Shirriff, curator, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and
Planetarium, which previously had relied on X-rays taken in the 1960s for
information on the child mummy. "With SGI making historic use of higher-
resolution scans and volume visualization applications, scientists were able
to model Sherit with unprecedented realism. The images of this little girl are
breathtaking, and the details that we can see on her are nothing short of
Team brings child mummy to life
Leading doctors, scientists and computer experts assembled for the mummy
project and presented their findings today in the immersive SGI(R) Reality
Center(R) Theater, equipped with a curved, 25-foot, 3,000-by-1,024 pixel
projection screen. A Silicon Graphics Prism visualization system powered by 24
Itanium 2 processors and 30GB of main memory allowed attendees to
interactively study the mummy's remains, the linen bandages surrounding her
body, and the gilded chest plate and face mask that remain of the mummy's
plaster cartonnage or casing.
Press conference attendees also had a unique chance to peer across 2,000
years of history to see the girl's face as real as life itself. After
digitally modeling her skull from CT data, a team of scientists led by
reconstructive surgeon Stephen Schendel, MD, DDS, professor of surgery at
Stanford, displayed a physical replica precisely constructed to match the
girl's actual skull. Using that physical model, which was created by Medical
Modeling Inc. of Golden, Colo., along with clues derived from studying one of
her still-intact ears and knowledge of facial characteristics common to
Egyptian children, the team created a clay bust of the little girl's face.
"The bust brings to life the story of this little girl who lived at a time
when Egyptians, Romans, Jews and Christians all lived side by side," said
Schwappach-Shirriff. "This mummy is no longer just a fascinating artifact, but
a lively young child who lived many ages ago."
To engage all the human senses, SGI worked with local scientists who took
microscopic samples from the resin protecting the mummy's face mask. The team
identified key elements of the resin using Gas Chromatography, Mass
Spectrometry and other techniques at Evans Analytical Group, a company based
in Silicon Valley. In the process, they discovered components of a natural
perfume within the resin. SGI then turned to Mandy Aftel, an alchemist and a
renowned designer of natural fragrances, to recreate the ancient formula. At
the press conference, Aftel described how she recreated the perfume. Then she
distributed samples of it at the event, giving guests a rare chance to
experience the genuine aroma of ancient funerary perfumes.
Taking mummy visualization to the next level
Ever since SGI pioneered detailed mummy visualization in 2003 with a
groundbreaking project at the British Museum in London, museums around the
world have conducted scan-based visualizations of their ancient mummified
artifacts using a broad range of technologies.
While all of these efforts are aimed at engaging museum patrons with
interactive 3D fly-throughs of mummies, today's SGI systems allow researchers
to view and interact with exceptionally large and detailed 3D models. And in
the two years since the British Museum project, SGI technology has grown more
powerful and more affordable, making it an ideal solution for Egyptologists
and institutes looking to maximize their understanding and appreciation of
these unique objects of antiquity, while keeping the mummies fully intact.
"In just the past three years, both scanner technology and SGI
visualization solutions have improved dramatically, as this new child mummy
project attests," said Afshad Mistri, advanced visualization marketing, SGI.
"The resulting difference in quality between this and all other previous scans
is instantly recognizable."
The data explosion caused by next-generation scanners in turn requires
world-class visualization solutions to create realistic, interactive 3D
models. From San Jose to London, curators and archeologists are leveraging
this technology to discover the wealth of information locked beneath the
bandages that have encased their relics for thousands of years.
"With the latest SGI systems and new ways to visualize volume data with
such tools as Volume Graphics' latest VGL graphics technology, these mummies
come to life, and seeing them projected on a large, immersive screen makes
their impact even greater," said Mistri. "This is one more way in which SGI
continues to push the limits of computing as the source of discovery and
innovation for 3D visualization."
While they are key to medical imaging and research, SGI visualization
technologies are also widely used by businesses across all major industries as
unique strategic-planning, evaluation and research tools to solve some of the
world's toughest business problems. These include seismic data analysis for
oil and gas exploration and crash simulation and product design for the
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium in San Jose, Calif.
celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year. Located in San Jose, Calif., the
museum houses the largest collection of authentic ancient Egyptian artifacts
on exhibit in western North America. For more information visit
www.egyptianmuseum.org or call (408) 947-3636.
Stanford University School of Medicine is the oldest medical school in the
western United States. It is a research-intensive enterprise that aims to
improve health through leadership and collaborative discoveries and innovation
in patient care, education and research.
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that enables the most significant scientific and creative breakthroughs of the
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