My Patients Were Mummies

Michael R. Zimmerman
Adjunct Professor, Biology Department, Villanova University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Series: Focus on Civilizations and Cultures
BISAC: HIS002000



Volume 10

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Special issue: Resilience in breaking the cycle of children’s environmental health disparities
Edited by I Leslie Rubin, Robert J Geller, Abby Mutic, Benjamin A Gitterman, Nathan Mutic, Wayne Garfinkel, Claire D Coles, Kurt Martinuzzi, and Joav Merrick


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Michael R. Zimmerman, MD, PhD is an anthropologist and retired pathologist. He obtained his medical degree and training in pathology from New York University as well as a degree in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. He has combined a full career in academic medicine with research in paleopathology, the study of diseases found through the examination of mummies and ancient skeletal human and prehuman remains.

Recognized as one of the world’s experts in this field, he is currently Adjunct Professor of Biology at Villanova University, Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and Visiting Professor in the UK at the University of Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology. He teaches courses in paleopathology, history of disease, medical anthropology and forensic anthropology. His studies have involved working with three archeologic expeditions in Egypt, where he examined mummies in the area of Luxor and the Dakhleh Oasis in the Western Desert.

He has also examined a number of frozen mummies in Alaska as well as mummies from the Penn Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum. He has served as a consultant on the find of the Iceman, for the National Archives and Records Administration Special Access and Freedom of Information Act Unit, College Park, MD, President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board, and the National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA, Office of Polar Programs. He has been invited to lectures at many museums, among them the British Museum, the Manchester Museum, Penn Museum, the University of Zurich’s Institute of Evolutionary Medicine and the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman.

His recent publications include: “Cancer: A New Disease, an Old Disease, or Something in Between?” in Nature Reviews Cancer; “Studying Mummies: Giving Life to a Dry Subject,” in Palaeopathology in Egypt and Nubia: A Century in Review; and “PUM I Revisited: Tradeoffs in Preservation and Discovery,” in The Anatomical Record. My Patients Were Mummies follows the many adventures of a career that took him to exotic parts of the world and has contributed to our understanding of the role that the evolution of diseases has had in human biological and cultural history. (Imprint: Nova)

Prologue: How to Become a Mummy Doctor

Chapter 1. Why and How Do We Examine Mummies?

Chapter 2. The history of Mummy Ppaleopathology

Chapter 3. An Aleut Mummy Comes to Washington

Chapter 4. The Doctor Becomes a Grad Student

Chapter 5. Experimental Mummification

Chapter 6. Egyptian Mummies in Museums

Chapter 7. The Dahkleh Oasis Project

Chapter 8. An Egyptian Mummy is Made in Baltimore

Chapter 9. Practicing Medicine in Ancient Egypt

Chapter 10. My Oldest Patients

Chapter 11. Two Mummies are Admitted to Harvard

Chapter 12. The St. Lawrence Island Iniut Mummy

Chapter 13. The Frozen Family of Barrow, Alaska

Chapter 14. Agniayaaq: A Prehistoric Eskimo Child in Alaska

Chapter 15. Paleopathology and Human Evolution

Chapter 16. Curios, African Art and Paleopathology

Chapter 17. Helmsman's Elbow: An Occupational Disease of the 17th Century

Chapter 18. The Salem Witch Trials: Joan of Arc and Ergotism

Chapter 19. 20th Century Paleopathology: A Train Robber and a President

Chapter 20. The Manchester Mummy Project

Chapter 21. Antarctica’s Frozen Seal Mummies and the Spread of Tuberculosis




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“Dr. Michael Zimmerman has written a fascinating account of his globe-trotting adventures in the field of paleopathology – the study of mummies and other ancient human remains and what they can teach us about modern-day human diseases. As he explains the process of unwrapping and analyzing mummies found everywhere from the deserts of Egypt to the frozen tundra of Alaska, this renowned pathologist and archaeologist proves himself a true Indiana Jones of the medical profession.” - Philip Shenon, former Washington correspondent for The New York Times for more than twenty years, bestselling author of The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation

"This autobiographical book chronicles the career of one of the world’s most respected mummy experts, but it is more than that. It is a mini-history of paleopathology, the study of disease in the ancient world. Dr. Zimmerman is doubly qualified for this task, he is a pathologist, specifically trained to detect disease, but also a physical anthropologist, qualified to examine skeletal material of the long dead and see what can be read from the bones." READ MORE... - Bob Brier, Senior Research Fellow, Long Island University, NY, USA

"Michael Zimmerman’s book consists of a series of essays recounting his research experiences with mummies. The book is not written for an academic audience; there are no in- text citations and the bibliography is limited. The book is generally a memoir, both in writing style and the presence of personal anecdotes. Given its construction, it appears intended for both general audiences and as a supplemental text for bioanthropology, paleopathology, or mummy studies courses." READ MORE... - Ken Nystrom, Department of Anthropology, State University of New York, New Paltz, USA. Published in the International Journal of Paleopathology

The book is written for physicians and other medical personnel, anthropologists and the general public.

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