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Recently we provided an in depth look into the application of anthropological endoscopy, also known as utilizing video borescopes to internally inspect mummies. RF System Lab is excited discuss a recent study where the VJ-Advance video borescope was used on two journeys to Koke Village in Papua, New Guinea. The first, to restore the body of Moimango, the village elder’s father and help to rekindle the old tradition of smoke by mummification. The second was to check back in on the restored mummy and learn more about the smoke-by mummification process. Another overall goal of Dr. Ron Beckett, the anthropologist completing the inspections, was to learn how the village utilized natural resources to complete their specific method of mummification.

The VJ-Advance video borescope, used to assist Dr. Beckett with his mummy studies.

The VJ-Advance video borescope, used to assist Dr. Beckett with his mummy studies.

Both of these trips were part of a National Geographic segment titled “Lost Mummies of Papua New Guinea” and showcased the ways that modern technology and ‘old ways’ could combine to recreate the skills needed to mummify dead ancestors like Moimango. “Nowadays, Christian missionaries have encouraged the members of Koke Village to look to the new traditions of having bodies burned instead of the old tradition, which is smoking the bodies,” explained Dr. Beckett.  He went on to state that it was “interesting to see the debate of new and old methods while I was there among elders and second generation of young adults and their varying opinions.”

A large part of the “modern technology” used in new traditions was RF System Lab’s VJ-ADV. When we asked how the more traditional members of the Koke Village feel about the video borescope, Dr. Beckett replied: “Oh, they enjoy the technology. The village members want to see it — they understand the world around them is changed, so they’re not surprised that technology is around and are very interested to see what it can and cannot do. When I used the VJ-ADV to inspect Moimongo’s mummified body in Papua New Guinea, I had a second battery-powered screen so that the village members could watch the internal inspection while I concentrated on the borescope’s main screen.”

The VJ-ADV greatly assisted both Dr. Beckett’s and the onlookers from the village’s ability to discover several ailments that Moimango may have had when he was alive. Through internal inspections, Dr. Beckett was able to point out different discoveries to the villagers and hear their reactions. “What was wonderful about that was that when I’d see something, for instance… when I’d take a look at his spine and mention that there wasn’t a lot of arthritis, the villagers would reply ‘oh, no, no he had a very strong back;’ or I’d say something like ‘Oh it looked like he had some disease in his teeth and gums,’ they’d say ‘oh yes, he complained of that.’ It made for a great collaboration – both an exciting and eye-opening time for them and also for me,” said Dr. Beckett.

In addition to helping to engage the members of the village, the VJ-ADV allowed Dr. Beckett to uncover all of the internal characteristics of the mummy and provide a great assessment of the internal context that cannot be seen from outside the body. This is crucial when looking for diseases in bones or other body parts that may affect the integrity of the mummy’s body. For instance, with the VJ-ADV, Dr. Beckett was able to find signs of what looked like emphysema on Moimango’s lungs. “Even in the best mummifications, those will burst or leave a void so you can see the holes or pockets in the mummy where the lungs used to be. It is not that surprising that his lungs were affected since the members of the village are always burning things; there’s always smoke. With the video borescope, look for the state of preservation of internal organs – we would not be able to see that any other way,” stated Dr. Beckett.

While being able to internally inspect a mummy without causing any damage is crucial, one of the biggest benefits that the VJ-ADV offers Dr. Beckett is its portability. The compact, battery-operated scope, which weighs less than two pounds, is a perfect fit for field studies abroad. Dr. Beckett informed us that “The VJ-ADV is so applicable; particularly in field settings. When you work in the field, you don’t have the move the mummy. Moving the mummy leads to the risk of disrupting the internal content, which is just as important as the outside the body. Therefore, we prefer to do work in the field and the VJ-ADV video borescope is just perfect for that. I’ve had my RF System borescope for quite some time and it just hasn’t failed. ”

Using the VJ-ADV and other modern technology in addition to utilizing resources found in the nearby jungle created a very cooperative venture for Dr. Beckett and the members of the village. Opposed to someone coming in, taking over and simply restoring the mummy, Dr. Beckett was able to use feedback and supplies from the villagers to enhance his findings with the VJ-ADV and other tools.

RF System Lab is extremely thankful that Dr. Beckett chose the VJ-ADV video borescope to use during his current and future mummy inspections. We are excited to learn about how he utilizes the VJ-ADV to continue to promote anthropological endoscopy efforts. Whether you are completing field work for mummy studies or inspecting down hole motors, you can learn more about RF System Lab and their no-cost, no-obligation demo program by calling a video borescope expert at (231) 943-1171 or by visiting the RF System Lab website.

Video borescopes are used in a multitude of industries including oil and gas, aviation, power generation and manufacturing. One unique use for video borescopes, specifically the VJ-Advance articulating video borescope by RF System Lab, is inspecting mummies; better known as “paleoimaging” or “anthropological endoscopy.” Dr. Ron Beckett, along with colleague Jerry Conologue, coined the phrase and technique and has been pioneering it using flexible borescopes for over twenty years. RF System Lab is proud to announce that their VJ-Advance video borescope is being used by Dr. Beckett on current and upcoming paleoimaging research and wanted to provide a more detailed look into the subject.

“We’ve been using it since the 1990s. Work was done when flexible fiber scopes came out in the ‘70s, but it was a medical model. The ‘90s brought about the archeological uses – we actually have a few books on the subject, one specifically titled ‘Paleoimaging: Field Applications for Cultural Remains and Artifacts.’ There are several chapters on just the application of endoscopy on cultural anthropology and archaeology – artifacts and human remains,” stated Dr. Beckett.

Paleoimaging book cover

The cover of Paleoimaging: Field Applications for Cultural Remains and Artifacts

‘Paleoimaging: Field Applications for Cultural Remains and Artifacts’ is an excellent resource for anyone interested in gaining an in-depth look into how videoscopes are revolutionizing mummy-related field work. The following is a short excerpt from the book that provides an overview of the uses of endoscopy in mummy research: “Endoscopy can complement the radiograph, providing an image with shape, contour, color, and location of what was only a shadow on the x-ray. Additionally, the endoscope can be used to guide instruments for retrieval of tissues or artifacts from within a closed environment, such as a body cavity, coffin, or tomb. The instrumentation is portable and well suited for field imaging studies.” (Beckett, Ron in Paleoimaging: Field Applications for Cultural Remains and Artifacts)

One of the main reasons that Dr. Beckett currently utilizes the VJ-Advance video borescope is because of its battery-operated, lightweight portability, which is crucial when performing field work in a limited work space such as a tomb or crypt. He also values features such as the ability to document findings with hi-resolution photographs and video, which aids in image collection of archaeological and paleopathological data. When asked about the video borescope, Dr. Beckett remarked: “The instrument just never stops working – I’ve been using it over a long period of time and it doesn’t stop. It’s a real workhorse.”

In regards to the field of anthropological endoscopy, Dr. Beckett is noticing an influx of researchers utilizing video borescopes in their field work. Dr. Beckett is continually spreading awareness about his methods in hope that the trend continues. When asked how awareness is spreading, Dr. Beckett replied: “One way is workshops at major conferences – for instance, a global conference on mummy studies. Also, we have really, really appreciated more and more endoscopy coming through the literature. The more we can get out there, the more people will adopt it into their scientific work. It’s important to have a very versatile tool to conduct field work, which is a standard we’ve tried to establish. In their reporting, they say what kind of scope they use, what lens they use, and all the features that would allow me to replicate our research exactly. We are seeing more and more of that and are really happy about it.”

RF System Lab is thankful that Dr. Beckett has chosen to utilize the VJ-Advance video borescope for his current and future anthropological endoscopy efforts and is looking forward to what the future holds for video borescope usage in mummy studies. Whether you are completing field work for mummy studies or inspecting a turbine engine, you can learn more about RF System Lab and their no-cost, no-obligation demo program by calling a video borescope expert at (888) 747-6526 or by visiting the RF System Lab website.