With the help of several CT scans at the Montreal Neurological Institute, scientists have confirmed that a mummified Egyptian woman is without a heart and other vital innards -- her brain, the only major organ left.
The woman, who likely passed away in her 30's or 40's around 1,700 years ago, was removed of her organs before being embalmed. Her burial would have occurred during Roman rule, when Christianity was spreading through Egypt and mummification was becoming less popular.
Archaeologists and historians had long assumed the heart would remain intact during the mummification process. Ancient Egyptian religions proffered that the weight of one's heart was measured against the single "Feather of Ma'at" -- the goddess of truth and justice -- to determine one's worthiness for the afterlife.
But evidence from the CT scans contradict this assumption. The imaging was able to reveal the precise incision where embalmers first excised her heart, intestines, stomach and liver. The incision was sealed with two types of plaque, which researchers suggest was an attempt to heal the mummy for the voyage to the afterlife.
"The power of current medical imaging technologies to provide evidence of change in ancient Egyptian mortuary ritual cannot be understated," researchers wrote in their paper on the findings, set to be published in the Yearbook of Mummy Studies.
As for what happened to the heart: there are only guesses.
"We don't really know what's happening to the hearts that are removed," Andrew Wade, an anthropologist with McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, told LiveScience.