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Is that a Nile crocodile? Tell you later, Hearst curator

More crocodile mummy photographs and high-resolution CT scans have been posted in a new Stanford Medicine Flickr photo set. Two crocodile mummies from the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology were scanned at Stanford in February. The CT images and the mummies will be on exhibit at the museum beginning April 23.

One of the two mummies was wrapped in linens and turned out to contain a jumble of bones; it's not clear whether they all belonged to a single crocodile or if there might be bones from more than one animal in there. The Flickr set images are of a mummy that was coated in a black, tar-like substance and had baby crocodile mummies stuck to its back. According to the Hearst Museum <>conservation blog, the babies were falling off and had to be carefully glued back on.

The babies are invisible in some of the scans, but not in others. Paul Brown, DDS, a consulting anatomy professor who helped render 3-D images from the scans, says that's because their skeletons haven't totally calcified yet, so their bones aren't opaque to x-rays like adult bones are.

Stanford's high resolution CT scanners have peered inside at least two other mummies, including a child mummy three years ago, and an adult male priest last year. The scans are being used to construct an anatomical database. Brown wants to develop interactive educational software that allows children (and curious adults) to "fly" through and label interactive 3-D images of the mummies. Many U.S. dental students already use renderings from scans of the human mummies to study and memorize bone calcification timelines.

Forensic scientists are making use of modern CT scanning tools to solve age-old medical mysteries and extract stories from silent mummies about their ancient lives and culture. Researchers recently used data from CT scans of Tutakhamun to show that the famed Egyptian pharaoh had a cleft palate and a club foot. Brown says the 2,600 year-old mummy priest Iret-net Hor-irw showed almost no wear on his joints, which suggest that he didn't do much manual labor while he was alive.

As for the crocodile mummies and their significance, the project has yet to recruit a herpetologist to interpret the scans. The ancient Egyptians did worship crocodiles and keep them as pets, so this crocodile mummy's joints might betray a life as labor-free as Iret-net Hor-irw's.

Images in the Flickr photo set compiled from renderings produced using Anatomage, by eHuman, Inc.

Previously: Ancient crocodile mummies scanned at Stanford and CT images of crocodile mummies scanned at Stanford.

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