Pictured: Ronald Beckett, professor emeritus and co-director of the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac University.
A Quinnipiac University professor will lead a team of researchers and students to Italy in January to perform the first-ever examination of the Gangi mummies, whose remains have been preserved in burial catacombs in Sicily.
Ronald Beckett, professor emeritus in biomedical sciences and co-director of the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac, has received a $15,000 grant from the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program to perform paleoimaging and a bioarchaeological analysis of the remains of 60 Gangi mummies from Jan. 1-10.
“While much is known about the origin of these mummies, little is known about their unique wax masks and how they interacted with their environment when they were living and walking the earth,” said Beckett, who will serve as the principal investigator on the project. “This expedition will answer a multitude of questions. Who were the Gangi mummies? What diseases did they suffer from? What was their dental condition? Was there evidence of trauma? Why were the wax masks used? How old were they when they died? What modern diseases (osteoporosis, vascular hardening, atherosclerosis, tuberculosis) were present? What is their current state of preservation and the extent of their deterioration?”
In addition to Beckett, the team will include Jerry Conlogue, professor of diagnostic imaging and co-director of the Bioanthropology Research Institute; Dario Piombino-Mascali, scientific curator at the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, honorary inspector for the Cultural Heritage of Sicily and director of the “Sicily Mummy Project;” Mark Viner of Cranfield University, the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, a fellow of the Cranfield Forensic Institute and chief executive officer of the Inforce Foundation; and Katherine Harper-Beckett, a research associate with the Bioanthropology Research Institute. Three diagnostic imaging students at Quinnipiac, Aniello Catapano, Jennifer Curry and Annamaria DiCesare, also will assist the research team.
The NGS/Waitt Grants Program supports cutting-edge research projects in the initial search and exploration phase, when funding is most difficult to secure. Approximately 100 grants of $5,000 to $15,000 will be made annually to explorers and scientists in research fields such as biology, anthropology and the geosciences, who are working across disciplines and responding quickly to potential discoveries.
Created in 1998, the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac conducts research in biology, archaeology, anthropology and paleopathology through paleoimaging applications including diagnostic imaging, video endoscopy, photography and laboratory analysis. The research is conducted on mummified humans and animals and ancient artifacts without destruction. The co-directors collaborate with bioanthropological researchers from around the globe. The institute conducts workshops, gives presentations and conducts field paleoimaging research worldwide.