Virtual Mummy

Undergraduate Samantha Cox takes a new look at museum specimens using CT scan technology.

Monday, January 9, 2012

By Priya Ratneshwar

Samantha Cox, anthropology major and junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, has spent the past three years helping researchers at the Penn Museum develop a virtual museum of its physical anthropology collection. Established by Janet Monge, Penn Museum curator and Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology, and P.Thomas Schoenemann, a research associate at the Penn Museum, the project employs the CT scan machines in the Department of Radiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania—located, conveniently, a block away from the museum.

"I think people are just starting to realize how useful this kind of imaging technology can be in applications other than medicine." -Samantha Cox

Data-rich three dimensional scans of specimens are stored in an Open Research Scan Archive on computers in the Human Brain Evolution Laboratory in the Penn Museum. Researchers can schedule an appointment to work in the lab, or request that specific scans be downloaded and mailed to them.

Cox is excited to gain experience with such cutting-edge techniques in anthropological research so early in her scholarly career. She is now using them in her own research on Egyptian child mummies, which she will continue to pursue through her final year at Penn.