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Swiss Mummy Project

Objectives and Goals


The Swiss Mummy Project (SMP) is a research project based at the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM), University of Zurich. Our central objective is to conduct comprehensive biomedical investigations on ancient human mummies from a wide spectrum of cultural and geographical origins. Our methodology is rooted in the application of cutting-edge scientific techniques, which empower us to unearth significant insights into the trajectory of human health, disease evolution, and genetic diversity. Further, this approach lends a unique perspective on the intersection of health and sociocultural dynamics at various temporal scales.

Initiated in the mid-1990s, the SMP initially focused on mummies from Swiss collections. However, over the years, our scope has expanded, and the project has evolved into an international collaborative venture. We've had the privilege to contribute to significant inquiries, such as the determination of the cause of death of historical figures like Pharaoh Tutankhamun and the Tyrolean Iceman, colloquially known as "Oetzi".

Our principal aim is to integrate multiple scientific perspectives, fostering an environment conducive to transdisciplinary research. In addition, we engage in experimental studies to deepen our understanding of the processes behind natural and artificial mummification in human tissue. The techniques employed by the SMP are wide-ranging and include diagnostic radiology, histology, and molecular techniques. We are committed to sustainable, ethical practices in handling these irreplaceable human remains, adhering to a strict code of ethics.

The SMP also organized the public mummy exhibition „Mummies: Men, Medicine, Magic“ at the University of Zurich-Irchel in 2011/12. Our work at the Swiss Mummy Project has gained recognition in various media outlets (TV, Radio, print press), and our research findings have been presented at numerous international conferences and published in specialized scientific journals. The Swiss Mummy Project operates primarily through the generosity of third-party funding (grants, donations), with foundational support graciously provided by the University of Zurich. For a comprehensive overview, please refer to the list of our funding partners.

Weiterführende Informationen

Decoding the Past: The Swiss Mummy Project's Transdisciplinary Journey

Delve into the mysteries of the past with the Swiss Mummy Project (SMP) at the University of Zurich's Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM). From revealing the cause of death of Pharaoh Tutankhamun and the Tyrolean Iceman (Oetzi) to exploring the intertwined narratives of health and culture across the ages, the SMP employs the cutting-edge analytical methods to provide unparalleled insights into human health and disease evolution.