Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yes the Cat: A Study of Mummification

The "Yes the Cat" project is an interdisciplinary investigation led by Dr. Andrew Nelson of the Department of Anthropology at Western University. The project is an ongoing study of the effects of mummification on different tissues of the body as demonstrated by the individual of interest - a domestic house cat named Yes.

Yes was mummified at the request of his owner, after dying of natural causes eight years ago. Since the time of the mummification, he has been studied using MR and clinical CT imaging in order to see beneath the exterior wrappings, to examine how the remains have changed over time.

Most recently, Yes the Cat was scanned using Sustainable Archaeology's microCT scanner. The microCT provides an additional means to non-destructively examine Yes the Cat's "afterlife", without removing any of the wrappings or disturbing the remains below. In the video below, Yes's skeleton was isolated from the layers of wrappings, which are digitally removed, allowing for the examination of the skeletal remains.

By isolating different densities, the researchers were also able to examine the condition of remaining internal organs, such as the heart, seen in red in the image below.

This cross-section, produced using the SA microCT's software, provides a more complete picture of Yes - through the wrappings down to the skeleton, also revealing what remains of the brain, heart and tongue.

Through digital imaging, Yes the Cat will continue to be a source of information about the effects of mummification for years to come, contributing broadly to our understanding of mummification and how mummified remains change over time. These findings can be applied to other cases of mummification, including both humans and other animals.

The Yes the Cat project will be presented at the upcoming Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on November 13th.

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