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CT scan seeks secrets of 700-year-old mummy

28 October 2011 Last updated at 20:46 BST

Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History are using a CT scanner to investigate mummies, spacesuits, pottery, antique violins, and other priceless objects.

The researchers say the scanner produces highly accurate, high definition three-dimensional images that enable them to study the objects in detail without having to cut them open.

Dr Bruno Frohlich, a physical anthropologist with the museum, says researchers plan to use the scanner to study a 700-year-old Peruvian mummy. They have already determined its internal organs are intact, and Dr Frohlich says the studies could shed light on how the woman lived - and died.

"We could probably do the same with a traditional autopsy," says Dr Frohlich, "but there would be nothing left for future generations and it would destroy something that should not be destroyed."

Video by the BBC's Matthew Danzico and Daniel Nasaw