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Evidence of neurofibromatosis type 1 in a multi-morbid Inca child mummy: A paleoradiological investigation using computed tomography.
Panzer, S; Wittig, H; Zesch, S; Rosendahl, W; Blache, S; Müller-Gerbl, M; Hotz, G;
PLoS One. 2017; 12(4): e0175000
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Panzer Stephanie


In this study, an Inca bundle was examined using computed tomography (CT). The primary aim was to determine the preservation status of bony and soft tissues, the sex, the age at the time of death, possible indicators for disease or even the cause of death, as well as the kind of mummification. A secondary aim was to obtain a brief overview of the wrapping in order to gain additional information on the cultural background.
The bundle belongs to the Museum of Cultures in Basel, Switzerland, and was bought in Munich, Germany, in 1921. Radiocarbon dating of the superficial textile yielded a calibrated age between 1480 and 1650 AD. The mummy was investigated using multi-slice CT with slice thickness of 0.75 mm and 110 kilovolt. For standardized assessment of soft tissue preservation, a recently developed checklist was applied.
CT revealed the mummy of a seven to nine year old boy with superior preservation of bony and soft tissues allowing detailed assessment. Indicators of neurofibromatosis type 1 (paravertebral and cutaneous neurofibromas, a breast neurofibroma, sphenoid wing dysplasia), Chagas disease (dilatation of the esophagus, stomach, rectum, and large amounts of feces), and lung infection (pleural adherence, calcifications), probably due to tuberculosis, were found. Furthermore, signs of peri-mortem violence (transection of the chest and a defect in the abdominal wall) were detected. CT images revealed a carefully performed wrapping.
CT examination of the Inca bundle proved to be an important non-destructive examination method. Standardized assessment, especially of the soft tissue structures, allowed for diagnoses of several diseases, indicating a multi-morbid child at the time of death. The careful wrapping pointed to a ceremonial burial. Within the cultural background, the signs of fatal violence were discussed as a possible result of war, murder, accident, or human sacrifice.