Source: Sherman Publications

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High-tech archaeology

February 22, 2012

From left, Dr. Mahmood Khalid, chief of radiology, Dr. Shivajee Nallamothu of Clarkston, and Michael Stafford check out a mummified bird. They used the hospital’s scanners to identify it as a ibis. Photos by Phil Custodio
For Michael Stafford of Clarkston, director of Cranbrook Institute of Science, the trick to examining centuries-old artifacts is to look inside without opening them up.

Dr. Shivajee Nallamothu of Clarkston could help with that, working with McLaren-Oakland hospital's radiology department in Pontiac for some community assistance.

The Pontiac hospital volunteered its X-ray, MRI, and Computed Tomography scanners to examine a shrunken head from South American and two mummified birds from ancient Egypt.

They identified the birds as an ibis and a falcon, dating from 800-900 B.C.

The shrunken head, from the late 1800s to early 1900s, is that of an unfortunate man of European descent, perhaps a trader or explorer. His skull, teeth, and other hard tissue were removed and the remainder dissolved in chemicals on a wooden form to its final shape. It was donated to Cranbrook in the 1950s.

It is one of four shrunken heads in the institute's collection. The other three are of local, indigenous origin. The institute plans to return those three to the ethnic groups they originally came from in the Amazon River region, Stafford said.