The Keepsake: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel
murmured, “Oh my goodness.”
“It’s something metallic,” said Dr. Brier. “It’s in the oral cavity.”
“It could be gold leaf,” said Pulcillo. “In the Greco-Roman era, they’d sometimes place gold-leaf tongues inside the mouth.”
Robinson turned to the TV camera, which was recording every remark. “There appears to be metal inside the mouth. That would correlate with our presumptive date during the Greco-Roman era—”
“Now what is
?” exclaimed Dr. Brier.
Maura’s gaze shot back to the computer screen. A bright starburst had appeared within the mummy’s lower jaw, an image that stunned Maura because it should not have been present in a corpse that was two thousand years old. She leaned closer, staring at a detail that would scarcely cause comment were this a body that had arrived fresh on the autopsy table. “I know this is impossible,” Maura said softly. “But you know what that looks like?”
The radiologist nodded. “It appears to be a dental filling.”
Maura turned to Dr. Robinson, who appeared just as startled as everyone else in the room. “Has anything like this ever been described in an Egyptian mummy before?” she asked. “Ancient dental repairs that could be mistaken for modern fillings?”
Wide-eyed, he shook his head. “But it doesn’t mean the Egyptians were incapable of it. Their medical care was the most advanced in the ancient world.” He looked at his colleague. “Josephine, what can you tell us about this? It’s your field.”
Dr. Pulcillo struggled for an answer. “There—there are medical papyri from the Old Kingdom,” she said. “They describe how to fix loose teeth and make dental bridges. And there was a healer who was famous as a maker of teeth. So we know they were ingenious when it came to dental care. Far ahead of their time.”
“But did they ever make repairs like
?” said Maura, pointing to the screen.
Dr. Pulcillo’s troubled gaze returned to the image. “If they did,” she said softly, “I’m not aware of it.”
On the monitor, new images appeared in shades of gray, the body viewed in cross section as though sliced through by a bread knife. She could be bombarded by X-rays from every angle, subjected to massive doses of radiation, but this patient was beyond fears of cancer, beyond worries about side effects. As X-rays continued to assault her body, no patient could have been more submissive.
Shaken by the earlier images, Robinson was now arched forward like a tightly strung bow, alert for the next surprise. The first slices of the thorax appeared, the cavity black and vacant.
“It appears that the lungs were removed,” the radiologist said.
“All I see is a shriveled bit of mediastinum in the chest.”
“That’s the heart,” said Pulcillo, her voice steadier now. This, at least, was what she’d expected to see. “They always tried to leave it in situ.”
“Just the heart?”
She nodded. “It was considered the seat of intelligence, so you never separated it from the body. There are three separate spells contained in the Book of the Dead to ensure that the heart remains in place.”
“And the other organs?” asked the CT tech. “I heard those were put in special jars.”
“That was before the Twenty-first Dynasty. After around a thousand BC , the organs were wrapped into four bundles and stuffed back into the body.”
“So we should be able to see that?”
“In a mummy from the Ptolemaic era, yes.”
“I think I can make an educated guess about her age when she died,” said the radiologist. “The wisdom teeth were fully erupted, and the cranial sutures are closed. But I don’t see any degenerative changes in the spine.”
“A young adult,” said Maura.
“Probably under thirty-five.”
“In the era she lived in, thirty-five was well into middle age,” said Robinson.
The scan had moved below the thorax, X-rays slicing through layers of wrappings, through the shell of dried skin and bones, to reveal the abdominal cavity. What Maura saw within was eerily unfamiliar, as strange to her as an alien autopsy. Where she expected to see liver and spleen, stomach and pancreas, instead she saw snake-like coils of linen, an interior landscape that was missing all that should have been recognizable. Only the bright knobs of vertebral bone told her this was indeed a human body, a body that had been hollowed out to a mere shell and stuffed like a rag doll.
Mummy anatomy might be alien to
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