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Ferne Arfin

CSI Bloomsbury - Murder at the British Museum

By November 18, 2012

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21st Century forensic technology worthy of the wildest CSI fantasy has uncovered a 5,500 year old murder victim who lay undiscovered at the British Museum for at least 100 years. And, until December 16, you can conduct a virtual autopsy on the remains to see how the crime was revealed.


Gebelein Man, a predynastic "natural" mummy was discovered in Upper Egypt in 1896 and acquired by the British Museum 100 years ago. Unlike the mummified Pharoahs who came after, Gebelein Man (buried about 3500 BC) was naturally preserved by the hot, dry sand of the desert. Some experts think that it was the accidental discovery of these earlier burials with their well-preserved bodies led later Egyptians to develop artificial mummification as a necessary requirement for the afterlife.

But almost nothing was known about Gebelein Man until he was subjected to CT Scans at London's Bupa Cromwell Hospital. Detailed scans produced by the hospital's high definition scanner were sent to the Interactive Institute and Visualization Center C in Sweden where the high resolution X-rays were turned into interactive, 3D images, allowing scientists to examine Gebelein man as never before.

The discovered that he was between 18 and 21 years old and, unexpectedly, that he was stabbed in the back. Using a virtual autopsy system that is used for criminal and accident cases in Sweden, a forensic radiology expert was able to follow a small, insignificant entry wound on the mummy's shoulder, through his skeleton, muscles and organs to determine the cause of death.

Now you can try your hand at forensic pathology yourself. For a limited time you can explore the mummy in Gallery 64 with a virtual autopsy table, an interactive tool that uses medical visualisations - such as CT scans - for non-invasive autopsy investigations. Until December 16, visitors will be able to strip away layers, make virtual slices to examine the mummy's internal organs and brain and see how scientists are using the technology to discover even more.

If autopsies - virtual or otherwise - are not your thing, why not leave your budding pathologists at the crime scene while you catch up with your holiday shopping in one of the British Museum's wonderful shops. Their original gifts and goodies, based on the museum's collections and exhibitions, are particularly good this year. And if you can't make it down to London before the holidays, you can still shop at the BM Christmas Shop online. Have a look at these:

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