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The Canopic Jar Project: interdisciplinary analyses of ancient human soft tissues

English title The Canopic Jar Project: interdisciplinary analyses of ancient human soft tissues
Applicant Rühli Frank
Number 162803
Funding scheme Interdisciplinary projects
Research institution Institut für Evolutionäre Medizin IEM Medizinische Fakultät Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Molecular Biology
Start/End 01.12.2015 - 30.11.2018
Approved amount 416'956.00
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All Disciplines (6)

Discipline
Molecular Biology
Anthropology, Primatology
Archaeology
Ancient history and Classical studies
Prehistory
Health

Keywords (7)

histology; computed tomography ; (ancient) DNA ; X-ray; soft tissue; morphology; toxicology

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Das Ziel des Canopic Jar Projectes ist es eine grössere Serie altägyptischer menschlicher Mumien und innerer Organe (Lunge, Leber, Magen und Gedärme) zu untersuchen. Dies soll mit einem interdisziplinären Ansatz geschehen.
Lay summary
Das Ziel des Canopic Jar Projectes ist es eine grössere Serie altägyptischer menschlicher Mumien und innerer Organe (Lunge, Leber, Magen und Gedärme) zu untersuchen. Dies soll mit einem interdisziplinären Ansatz geschehen. Proben stammen u.a. aus Sammlungen in Boston, Berlin und Turin. Es soll eine ägyptologische Beurteilung und anschliessend u.a. eine medizinisch erfolgen. Die Objekte sollen geröntgt werden und falls möglich Proben für histologische und genetische Weiterabklärungen vorgenommen werden. Dieses Projekt erlaubt einen neuartigen Ansatz im Studium vergangener Krankheiten. So sind bspw. viele Infektionskrankheiten gerade auch in inneren Organen erkennbar. Erstaunlicherweise wurden solch mumifizierte innere Organe, welche dann in sogenannten Kanopen bestattet wurden, bisher kaum wissenschaftlich untersucht.
Gerade die technisch schwierige Untersuchung der noch vorhandenen DNA Resten verspricht viel Information bspw. zur Evolution von heute relevanten Krankheiten (wie bspw. Tuberkulose). Chemisch-toxikologische Analyse werden es ermöglichen u.a. die verwendeten Einbalsamierungssubstanzen zu diagnostizieren. Das stark interdisziplinäre Projekt kann auf umfangreiche Vorarbeiten des Swiss Mummy Project an der UZH (www.swissmummyproject.uzh.ch) zurückgreifen.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 24.11.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
The Ramesside Mummies
Habicht Michael, GalassiFrancesco, Wettengel Wolfgang (2019), The Ramesside Mummies, ePubli, Berlin.
Radiological findings in ancient Egyptian canopic jars: comparing three standard clinical imaging modalities (x-rays, CT and MRI)
Eppenberger Patrick E., Cavka Mislav, Habicht Michael E., Galassi Francesco M., Rühli Frank (2018), Radiological findings in ancient Egyptian canopic jars: comparing three standard clinical imaging modalities (x-rays, CT and MRI), in European Radiology Experimental, 2(1), 12-12.
Egyptian Canopic Jars at the Crossroad of Medicine and Archaeology: Overview of 100 Years of Research and Future Scientific Expectations
Senti Sidney, Habicht Michael E., Rayo Enrique, Eppenberger Patrick E., Rühli Frank J., Galassi Francesco M. (2018), Egyptian Canopic Jars at the Crossroad of Medicine and Archaeology: Overview of 100 Years of Research and Future Scientific Expectations, in Pathobiology, 85(5-6), 267-275.
Embalming
Eppenberger Patrick, Rühli Frank (2018), Embalming, in Lopez Valera Sandra L. (ed.), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA, 1.
Queen Meresankh III – the oldest case of bilateral Silent Sinus Syndrome (c. 2620/10 - 2570 BC)?
Habicht Michel E., Eppenberger Patrick E., Galassi Francesco Maria, Rühli Frank J., Henneberg Maciej (2018), Queen Meresankh III – the oldest case of bilateral Silent Sinus Syndrome (c. 2620/10 - 2570 BC)?, in Anthropologie, 103-113.
Untargeted metabolomics-like screening approach for chemical characterization and differentiation of canopic jar and mummy samples from Ancient Egypt using GC-high resolution MS
Brockbals Lana, Habicht Michael, Hajdas Irka, Galassi Francesco M., Rühli Frank J., Kraemer Thomas (2018), Untargeted metabolomics-like screening approach for chemical characterization and differentiation of canopic jar and mummy samples from Ancient Egypt using GC-high resolution MS, in The Analyst, 143(18), 4503-4512.
A New Astronomically Based Chronological Model for the Egyptian Old Kingdom
Gautschy Rita, Habicht Michael E., Galassi Francesco M., Rutica Daniela, Rühli Frank J., Hannig Rainer (2017), A New Astronomically Based Chronological Model for the Egyptian Old Kingdom, in Journal of Egyptian History, 10(2), 69-108.
The Canopic Jar Project: Interdisciplinary Analysis of Ancient Mummified Viscera
Galassi Francesco M., Habicht Michael, Bowman Abigail, Rühli Frank (2017), The Canopic Jar Project: Interdisciplinary Analysis of Ancient Mummified Viscera, in CIPEG Journal: Ancient Egyptian & Sudanese Collections and Museums, (1), 75-79.
A Unique Case of Stroke and Upper Limb Paralysis in a Mid-18th Century Natural Mummy
Galassi Francesco M., Habicht Michael E., Rühli Frank J., De Carolis Stefano (2017), A Unique Case of Stroke and Upper Limb Paralysis in a Mid-18th Century Natural Mummy, in Circulation Research, 121(4), 338-340.
Oldest Case of Gigantism? Assessment of the Alleged Remains of Sa-Nakht, King of Ancient Egyp
Galassi Francesco, Henneberg Maciej, de Herder Wouter, RühliFrank J., Habicht Michael (2017), Oldest Case of Gigantism? Assessment of the Alleged Remains of Sa-Nakht, King of Ancient Egyp, in Lancet Diabeter and Endocrinology , 5(8), 580-581.
Queen Nefertari, the Royal Spouse of Pharaoh Ramses II: A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Mummified Remains Found in Her Tomb (QV66)
Habicht Michael E., Bianucci Raffaella, Buckley Stephen A., Fletcher Joann, Bouwman Abigail S., Öhrström Lena M., Seiler Roger, Galassi Francesco M., Hajdas Irka, Vassilika Eleni, Böni Thomas, Henneberg Maciej, Rühli Frank J. (2016), Queen Nefertari, the Royal Spouse of Pharaoh Ramses II: A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Mummified Remains Found in Her Tomb (QV66), in PLOS ONE, 11(11), e0166571-e0166571.
Identifications of ancient Egyptian royal mummies from the 18th Dynasty reconsideredIdentifications of Ancient Egyptian Royal Mummies
Habicht M.E., Bouwman A.S., Rühli F.J. (2016), Identifications of ancient Egyptian royal mummies from the 18th Dynasty reconsideredIdentifications of Ancient Egyptian Royal Mummies, in American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 159, 216-231.
The Scientific Value of Ancient Egyptian Canopic Jars for Medical and Egyptological Research
HabichtMichael, Senti Sidney, RühliFrank, Galassi Francesco (2016), The Scientific Value of Ancient Egyptian Canopic Jars for Medical and Egyptological Research, in Shemu , 20(3), 1-4.
A New Sothis Rise on a Small Cylindrical Jar from the Old Kingdom
Habicht Michael, SiegmannRenate, GautschyRita, RuticaDaniela, Rainer Hannig (2015), A New Sothis Rise on a Small Cylindrical Jar from the Old Kingdom, in Göttinger Miszellen, 247, 41-50.
A New Source for Old Questions
RühliFrank J, Bouwman Abigail, HabichtMichael (2015), A New Source for Old Questions, in Ikram Salima , Kayser Jessica, Walker Roxie (ed.), Sidestone Press, Leiden , 105-112.
Shedding New Light on the 18th Dynasty Mummies of the Royal Architect Kha and His Spouse Merit
Binucchi Raffaella, Habicht Michael, Buckley Steven, Fletcher Joanne, SeilerRoger, Oehrstroem Lena, VasilikaEleni, BöniThomas, RühliFrank (2015), Shedding New Light on the 18th Dynasty Mummies of the Royal Architect Kha and His Spouse Merit, in Plos One, 10(7), e0131916.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Assist. prof. Dr. Dr. med. Mislav Cavka Croatia (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Dr. T. Böni, MD Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. S. Ikram, PhD Egypt (Africa)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Prof. Dr. M. Thali, MD Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
PD Dr. A., Zink, PhD Italy (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Prof Dr. S. Bickel, PhD Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Egypharmed 2018: 3rd International Conference on Pharmacy and Medicine in Ancient Egypt Talk given at a conference The Canopic Jar Project: Interdisciplinary analyses of ancient human soft tissues 25.10.2018 Barcelona, Spain Galassi Francesco Maria; Habicht Michael; Rühli Frank;
Extraordinary World Congress on Mummy Studies, 2018 Talk given at a conference The Canopic Jar Project: Interdisciplinary analyses of ancient human soft tissues 15.05.2018 Santa Cruz, Teneriffa, Spain Galassi Francesco Maria; Rühli Frank; Habicht Michael; Bouwman Abigail;
Disease in Antiquity Talk given at a conference Egyptian Canopic Jars as resource for paleopathology 21.08.2017 Oxford , Great Britain and Northern Ireland Habicht Michael;
Current Research in Egyptology (CRE), 2017 Talk given at a conference Evaluation of standard imaging modalities for the investigation of canopic jars 03.05.2017 Neapel, Italy Seiler Roger;
The 44th Annual North American Meeting of the Paleopathology Association, 2017 Poster Radiological findings in ancient Egyptian canopic jars – comparing the three standard clinical imaging modalities (conventional X-ray, CT and MRI) – first results 17.04.2017 New Orleans, United States of America Rühli Frank;
UK Archaeological Science conference (UKAS), 2017 Talk given at a conference The Canopic Jar Project: An interdisciplinary study 05.04.2017 London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Bouwman Abigail;
ICE XI Firenze Talk given at a conference ‘“Evidence” in Identifying Royal and Non-Royal Mummies: General Considerations and a Specific Eample (Mummified Remains from QV 66; Queen Nefertari 21.08.2016 Firenze, Italy Rühli Frank; Ohrstroem Lena Maria; Galassi Francesco Maria; Seiler Roger; Habicht Michael;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Workshop: Paleoradiology and Paleogenetics, Cairo Egyptian Museum, 2019 05.08.2019 Kairo, Egypt

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media ‘Queen Meresankh III – the Oldest Case of Bilateral Silent Sinus Syndrome (c. 2630/20 - 2587 BC)? International 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Medical imaging is lifting the lid on ancient Egyptian canopic jars SpringerOpen blog International 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Le mode de vie des Egyptiens reconstitué grâce à des vases de viscères Le Temps Western Switzerland 2017
Media relations: print media, online media Oldest Case of Gigantism? Assessment of the Alleged Remains of Sa-Nakht, King of Ancient Egypt’. International 2017
Media relations: print media, online media ‘Queen Nefertari, the Royal Spouse of Pharaoh Ramses II: A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Mu International 2016
Talks/events/exhibitions Mini-Symposium: Transdisciplinary research on ancient mummified tissue German-speaking Switzerland 2016

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
120662 SWISS MUMMY PROJECT: CORRELATIVE RADIOLOGICAL AND IMMUNOHISTOCHEMICAL-GENETIC ASSESSMENT OF MODERN AND ANCIENT MUMMIFIED HUMAN TISSUES 01.06.2008 Project funding (Div. I-III)
160841 Evolutionary Medicine Conference 2015: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Health and Disease 01.06.2015 Scientific Conferences
161763 Improvement of novel imaging technologies to study anatomical and pathological morpholo-gy in ancient human remains: Terahertz Imaging and Spectroscopy and Magnetic Reso-nance Imaging 01.12.2015 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

The Canopic Jar Project will establish novel research procedures and examine a larger series of ancient Egyptian human mummies and viscera samples from canopic jars in European and American museum collections in a truly interdisciplinary research setting. This inventive focus particularly on the contents of canopics can produce results, which are not obtainable by conventional ancient mummy research methods. We assert that the viscera (lung, liver, stomach, intestines) are an especially important target of investigation, but have been neglected in the past. This is most surprising, given their enormous research potential (for example, most bacterial infections result in a concentration of pathogens within the organs, e.g. tuberculosis in the lungs). These data are of importance to the research fields of medicine, human genetics and Egyptology. The medical field will benefit from the understanding of pathogen evolution, while genetic fingerprinting and pathogen identification are of vital importance to increasing our understanding of the health and social structure of ancient Egypt. The project will macroscopically and radiographically study mummies and canopics based on Egyptological assessments. This currently includes 82 canopics from major collections in Berlin, Turin and Boston, spanning numerous ancient Egyptian dynasties. Where ethically and technically possible, samples will be extracted from the mummies and canopics to undergo; 1) histological investigation - to identify the organ interred, assess the preservation of the sample and identify any pathological tissue, 2) molecular analysis - to assess DNA preservation, identify the individual if possible, examine the genetic relationship between pathogens and hosts, assess co-infections and investigate specific ancient microbiomes by next-generation-sequencing techniques and 3) chemical analysis - to identify the components used during embalming. To date, there are no publications particularly detailing the investigation of ancient DNA from canopics. In a pilot study, we tested such ancient human mummified tissues from selected canopics for molecular and chemical content as well as histologically and radiologically. We have found all of these techniques to be successful, and wish to expand, both these techniques and the samples size. In addition, the planned subproject “experimental mummification of modern organs” will reveal insights into the process of human viscera mummification and preservation; it is an expansion of the previous study on mummification of fresh human cadaveric tissue by us (SNSF Grant No. 120662). In addition, the genetic investigation of the various microbiomes from different organs will build on our previous research of the archaeological oral microbiome. The data from this proposed project will be combined with those accumulated during the last few years by the Swiss Mummy Project, to give a holistic view of the history of disease and will be accessible to researchers from multiple disciplines and other stakeholders. Data gathering and distribution will follow our own unique code of ethics. By insuring that we have a multipronged interdisciplinary approach many types of data will be examined together to provide a clearer picture of, among other things, the evolution of human health, which is not possible using only one discipline.
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