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‘Mummies’ uses technology to unravel mysteries after thousands of years

CHICAGO —  Some may be around 2,000 years old, but the mysteries of the mummies in the Field Museum's newest exhibit have only unraveled in recent years thanks to modern technology.

"CT scanning has really made a tremendous difference to how we approach mummies because before that we were afraid to do anything because we didn’t want to disturb the wrappings," Field Museum conservator JP Brown said.

CT scans have not only unlocked the secrets behind the deaths of these amazing Egyptian and South American mummies, but also the lives they led above ground. One was the "Gilded Lady," which scans revealed was five-foot-one and in her mid-40s when she died, with a bad back, a slight overbite and curly hair, according to Brown.

"She was basically my mother-in-law," Brown said. "The person becomes more and more real... They stop being a museum specimen and become and individual."

In December 2014, WGN was inside the Field Museum's research lab as they uncovered and reassembled an Egyptian boy they call "Minirdis." Finding it was badly damaged, the museum recreated an ancient practice of rewrapping damaged mummies.

Along with the scanned mummies themselves, there are interactive exhibits of burials, artifacts originally shown at the 1893 Worlds' Fair, and other pieces of history long left under wraps until technology helped safely reveal their stories. There are even recreations of what they may have looked like while they were alive.

"We were able to extract a 3-D scan model of the skull and then we were able to make a forensic reconstruction of what this person would have looked like in life," Brown said.

"Mummies" officially opens to the public this Friday, March 16, and will be open through April of next year, as part of the Field's big year-long celebration for its 125th anniversary.