Washington: About 2,900 years after he
was mummified, scientists have uncovered that the
ancient Egyptian man, likely in his 20s, died of a rare,
cancer-like disease that may also have left him with a
type of diabetes.
A team of doctors who looked at the mummy, which is
now in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb in Croatia,
found that while mummifying, the embalmers removed the
man’s brain, may be through the nose; poured resin-like
fluid into his head and pelvis; took out some of his
organs and inserted four linen ‘packets’ into his
His body showed telltale signs that he suffered from
Hand-Schuller-Christian disease, an enigmatic condition
in which Langerhans cells, a type of immune cell found
in the skin, multiply rapidly.
“They tend to replace normal structure of the bone
and all other soft tissues,” Dr Mislav Cavka, a medical
doctor at the University of Zagreb who is one of the
study’s leaders, told Live Science. “We could say it is
one sort of cancer.”
Scientists are still not sure what causes the
disease, but it is very rare, affecting about one in
560,000 young adults, more often males. “In ancient
times it was lethal, always,” said Cavka, who added that
today it can be treated.
The mummy was believed to have transferred to the
2,300 year-old sarcophagus of a woman named Kareset, and
until now scientists had assumed that it belonged to the
Cavka and colleagues said the disease seems to have
taken a terrible toll on the ancient man’s body, with
images revealing it destroyed parts of his skeleton,
leaving lytic lesions throughout his spine and skull.