Replication of ancient Egyptian osteotomies of the facial skeleton: Insights into the mummification process

Z. S. Peacock, P. H. Chapman, R. Gupta, L. B. Kaban

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8 Scopus citations


A recent radiographic study of an Egyptian mummified head from the Middle Kingdom revealed methodical mutilations of the facial skeleton that were performed after death and prior to wrapping the corpse for burial. These mutilations consisted of removal of the coronoid processes of the mandible and portions of the zygomas presumably via an intraoral approach. They are unique in the archaeological record. The authors hypothesize that the procedures were carried out to facilitate jaw opening and may be related to a ritual known as the 'Opening of the Mouth' ceremony. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the feasibility of performing these remarkable osteotomies on two human cadavers using instruments similar to those available to the ancient embalmer. Bilateral osteotomies of the zygomas and coronoid processes were carried out transorally and the bones removed. Pre- and postoperative maximal incisal opening measured 25 mm and 53 mm, respectively. Postoperative high-resolution computed tomographic (CT) scans were obtained. Comparison of the postoperative cadaver and mummy CT scans demonstrate remarkable similarity between the resections. Results of this study demonstrate that the ancient skeletal mutilations could have been performed transorally during the mummification process and would have enhanced jaw opening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1301-1306
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Egyptian mummy
  • coronoidectomy
  • mandibular hypomobility
  • muscles of mastication


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