Clip | The Woman in the Iron Coffin - This Virtual Autopsy Reveals a Surprising Discovery

For a non-invasive way to further examine the woman in the iron coffin’s remains, diagnostic imaging experts conduct a virtual autopsy and are stunned by the results.


Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin Premieres Wednesday, October 3 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and streams October 4 via pbs.org/secrets and PBS apps.

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This is unbelievable I have never seen anything like this before.

We''ve seen x-rays, we''ve seen some CT scans, but this is a 3D version of this woman.

The original CT scans Jerry made of the woman have been loaded into a piece of groundbreaking software.

It allows for a virtual autopsy of the body, unlocking the secrets contained within without making a single incision.

Normally I am looking at sections or regions of the body, but this thing lets me see the entire body and I can spin it and roll it and go into it and come out of it.

This is a way that I have never been able to look at a body before.

With just the swipe of a screen, it can move between multiple layers of the body digitally stripping back skin, revealing internal organs, and showing the skeleton beneath.

If we had examined her let''s say in 2000 we would have not have had the capability with the CT and the MR and this wonderful table would have not been there.

Yeah, right.

We would have X-Rays.

We''d just have plain X-Rays Typically, in an archaeological situation you never really know how someone died, the cause and manner of death.

Based on what''s left is usually the skeleton unless they have a bullet hole or an arrowhead in them.

Here we can see clearly the cause and manner of this woman''s death is smallpox.

Well on the surface, you can see all these small pox lesions on her head, on her neck, on her chest, down into her thigh area and even down into her feet.

And then on her heel, then on the pad of her foot, on the ball of her foot.

Typically with smallpox the rash really initiates in the mouth, in the oral cavity, and so, they become really sore, you have lesions inside your mouth, and then it becomes a full-blown skin lesions in a centrifugal pattern that means predominantly in the limbs but also on the trunks.

And quite often it was documented that they would have you know exceptional fever, immune response and then a significant drop in blood pressure, which indicates some type of organ failure I would have only expected lesions on the surface, but if we look inside her skull, this is her brain.

Now covering the brain there is this tissue that is very dense it is kind of a consistency of canvas and that''s to protect the brain and that is called the dura and there are lesions on the dura.

What makes this really unusual is that I don''t think anyone has ever imaged an individual with smallpox, looked inside.

And here we have evidence that the lesions are in fact inside.

It is amazing.

It is like we have a map of how smallpox colonised the human body.

That''s a first.

That''s a medical first.

The woman''s body was so well-preserved, the smallpox that killed her remains clearly visible something Jerry and Scott wouldn''t usually get to see from skeletal remains.