Cause of death found for ancient baby mummy

Scientists say that the Detmold Child, one of the oldest known mummies in the world, had died of a rare but serious heart defect. File Photo of a mummy entering a CT scanner.  

The cause of death of the Detmold Child, one of the oldest known mummies in the world, has been found, scientists say, a rare but serious heart defect.

Officials at the Lippe State Museum in the German city of Detmold, where the approximately 6,500-year-old mummy is on display, said scientists and heart specialists at the North Rhine Westphalia Heart and Diabetes Centre (HDZ NRW) used a high-resolution CT scanner on it.

They determined that the child suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a rare congenital condition in which parts of the left side of the heart do not develop completely.

Discovered in what is now Peru, the child - eyes closed, arms folded and legs hunched - is thought to have been about 10 months of age at the time of death. Several years ago the mummified corpse was radio-carbon dated to 4504-4457 BC, making it nearly twice as old as the mummy of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, popularly known as King Tut.

Left untreated, HLHS leads to death in early infancy according to Nikolaus Haas, a paediatric cardiologist at HDZ NRW. He said the survival rate with modern treatment was more than 70 per cent.

Originally a private donation to the Witzenhausen Ethnological Museum, near the German city of Kassel, the mummy was turned over to the Lippe State Museum in Detmold for conservation after it became infested with mould.

It recently completed a three-year tour as part of the Mummies of the World exhibition in various U.S. cities.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 5:10:17 AM |

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