Facebook Pixel Code
About Sickkids
About SickKids

July 26, 2013

SickKids staff member has inside knowledge about ROM star attraction

CT scan of 3000 year old mummy

When Stephanie Holowka refers to an “old friend” she sometimes means a woman who is almost 3,000 years old – and is a star attraction at the Royal Ontario Museum.  

Djedmaatesank, or “Djed” for short, is a 22nd Dynasty mummy originally from a tomb in the Luxor area of Egypt. Holowka, a medical radiation technologist, was a member of the SickKids imaging team that welcomed Djed to the hospital for a computerized tomography (CT) scan almost 20 years ago.

On June 3 Holowka discussed some of the images with a ROM Egyptologist as part of the TVO series Museum Diaries. She has applied recent three-dimensional reconstruction techniques to the original scans, revealing details that she shared on camera with Gayle Gibson.

Secure and undisturbed in her beautifully painted cartonnage, Djed first arrived at SickKids on the morning of Saturday, May 14, 1994. (The Saturday is important, as the work was done on a voluntary basis outside of service hours.) After performing the CT scans, Holowka and Dr. Peter Lewin, Dr. Derek Armstrong and Dr. Derek Harwood-Nash identified a large, bone-melting dental cyst attached to tooth abscesses as a possible cause of death. According to writings enclosed with the body, Djed was a singer. She was just 30-35 years old when she died about 2800 years ago.

For the recent meeting with Gibson, Holowka showed extraordinarily fine details relating to the skeleton, mummified abdominal organs, and other body parts as well as the linen wrappings inside and outside the body. “As just one example, we can see the actual lenses of eyes far back in the packed globes, behind the small stones that were placed there during mummification,” she says.

SickKids performed the world’s first CT scan of a mummy in 1974. “I was asked to participate in the 1994 project because I was working in neurosurgery using the same three-dimensional technology,” Holowka says. Her fascination with working with Egyptian mummies continues. She has also reviewed CT scans of mummies for other organizations, helping to identify a male in Chicago as the probable husband of Djed. She does presentations on the mummy scans for medical groups, Egyptologists and schools.

“In 1994, the CT Scan machine that we used with Djed was almost obsolete. Now I’d like to bring her back for another scan in our modern machine,” she adds. “There’s more to see and more to learn.”

This episode of Museum Diaries is scheduled to air in the winter on TVOntario.