Endoscopic investigation of the internal organs of a 15th-century child mummy from Yangju, Korea

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Our previous reports on medieval mummies in Korea have provided information on their preservation status. Because invasive techniques cannot easily be applied when investigating such mummies, the need for non-invasive techniques incurring minimal damage has increased among researchers. Therefore, we wished to confirm whether endoscopy, which has been used in non-invasive and minimally invasive studies of mummies around the world, is an effective tool for study of Korean mummies as well. In conducting an endoscopic investigation on a 15th-century child mummy, we found that well-preserved internal organs remained within the thoracic, abdominal and cranial cavities. The internal organs – including the brain, spinal cord, lung, muscles, liver, heart, intestine, diaphragm and mesentery – were easily investigated by endoscopy. Even the stool of the mummy, which accidentally leaked into the abdominal cavity during an endoscopic biopsy, was clearly observed. In addition, unusual nodules were found on the surface of the intestines and liver. Our current study therefore showed that endoscopic observation could provide an invaluable tool for the palaeo-pathological study of Korean mummies. This technique will continue to be used in the study of medieval mummy cases in the future.

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