The Buffalo Museum of Science is turning to the diagnostics' experts at Roswell Park Cancer Institute to learn more about an infant mummy that's been in its collections for nearly 100 years.
Roswell Park will allow the use of its 3D CT scan equipment for a virtual autopsy to better study the mummified remains of a South American child donated to the museum in the 1920s.
Results of the scan, set to take place Wednesday night, will be incorporated into a new traveling mummy exhibit opening at the museum in mid-April.
Mummies of the World: The Exhibition will include 45 mummies from around the world. Buffalo is its 10th stop on the tour, and the first in New York. Museum officials are counting on the exhibit to bring in more than 100,000 visitors during the exhibition, which runs from April 11 until late September.
The mummy to be studied this week is part of the museum's own collection. But because of the condition of the mummy and the positioning of the body, no one has been able to determine the gender and age of the child nor the cause of death.
Because the CT scan is non-invasive, museum officials hope they'll be able to study the mummy while preserving it both for the sake of science and out of respect for the specimen.
Amy Biber, marketing manager at the science museum, said the mummy was donated anonymously in the museum's early years before it kept thorough records.
"We don't know if it's 650 years old or 6,500 years old. There's just no way to know based on the information," she said. "This is something we've wanted to know for years and years."
"It is a child mummy, and based on the size, we're guessing 18 months but it's very difficult to determine what the sex is. That is one of the major answers we're hoping to get. We're also hope to discover what the cause of death was for a child so young."