An Egyptian woman who was mummified with her mouth open in a silent scream may have died of a heart attack, new research finds.
A computed tomography (CT) scan of the mummy found widespread atherosclerosis, deposits of fatty plaques within the blood vessels. Egyptologists argue that the woman died alone of a massive heart attack and was not found for several hours, by which point rigor mortis set in. Her jaw, which may have fallen open in death, was then frozen open forever.
However, outside researchers are skeptical of this story. Mummification was a long process, and rigor mortis lasts only a few days, Andrew Wade, a mummy researcher at Western University, told Gizmodo.
“It is far more likely that the wrappings around the jaw were simply not tight enough to hold the mouth closed, as it does tend to fall into an open position if left to its own devices,” Wade said.