Home Artifacts Scientists digitally “unwrap” Pharaoh Amenhotep’s mummy, leaving 3,000-year-old artifact intact

Scientists digitally “unwrap” Pharaoh Amenhotep’s mummy, leaving 3,000-year-old artifact intact

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Saleem and Z. Hawass, CC license

All the royal mummies found in the 19th and 20th centuries have long been open to study. With one exception: Egyptologists were never daring enough to open the mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep I. Not because of a mythical curse, but because it is perfectly enveloped, beautifully decorated with garlands of flowers, and with face and neck covered with an exquisite realistic mask. encrusted with colored stones. But now, for the first time, Egyptian scientists have used three-dimensional computed tomography (computed tomography) scans to “digitally unwrap” this royal mummy and study its contents.

It was the first time in three millennia that Amenhotep’s mummy had been opened. The previous time was in the 11th century BCE, more than four centuries after its original mummification and burial.

Hieroglyphics have described how, at the end of the 21st Dynasty, priests restored and re-buried royal mummies from older dynasties, to repair damage caused by tomb robbers.

“The fact that the mummy of Amenhotep I was never unboxed in modern times gave us a unique opportunity: not only to study how he was originally mummified and buried, but also High Priests of ‘Amon,’ said Dr Sahar Saleem, professor of radiology at Cairo University’s Faculty of Medicine and radiologist of the Egyptian Mummy Project, the study’s first author.

“By digitally unwrapping the mummy and ‘peeling off’ its virtual layers – the face mask, the bandages and the mummy itself – we could study this well-preserved pharaoh in unprecedented detail,” Saleem said.

“We show that Amenhotep I was around 35 when he died. He was about 169 cm tall, was circumcised and had good teeth. In his packaging he wore 30 amulets and a unique golden belt with gold beads.

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“Amenhotep I seems to have physically resembled his father: he had a narrow chin, a small narrow nose, curly hair, and slightly protruding upper teeth. “

Saleem and Z. Hawass, CC license

Saleem continued: “We have not found any injury or disfigurement due to disease to justify the cause of death, except for numerous mutilations. post mortem, presumably by grave robbers after his first burial. His entrails had been taken by the first mummifiers, but not his brain or his heart. “

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The mummy of Amenhotep I (whose name means “Amon is satisfied”) was discovered in 1881, among other reburied royal mummies, at the archaeological site of Deir el Bahari, in southern Egypt.

The second pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty (after his father Ahmose I, who expelled the Hyksos invaders and reunified Egypt), Amenhotep ruled from around 1525 to 1504 BCE. It was a kind of golden age: Egypt was prosperous and secure, while the pharaoh ordered a series of religious constructions and successfully led military expeditions to Libya and northern Sudan. After his death, he and his mother Ahmose-Nefertari were worshiped like gods.

Sahar Saleem and his Egyptologist co-author Dr Zahi Hawass previously hypothesized that the main intention of 11th-century restorers was to reuse royal funerary material for subsequent pharaohs. But here they refute their own theory, as their study, published in Frontiers in medicine.

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“We show that at least for Amenhotep I, the priests of the 21st The dynasty lovingly mended the wounds inflicted by the grave robbers, restored her mummy to its former glory, and kept the magnificent jewelry and amulets in place, ”Saleem said.

Saleem and Z. Hawass, CC license

Hawass and Saleem studied more than 40 royal mummies from the New Kingdom as part of the Egyptian Antiquity Ministry project launched since 2005. Twenty-two royal mummies, including that of Amenhotep I, were transferred in April 2021 to a new museum in Cairo. The face of the mummy of Amenhotep I with his mask was the icon of the spectacular “Royal Golden Mummy Parade” on March 3, 2021 in Cairo.

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“We show that CT imagery can be used beneficially in anthropological and archaeological studies of mummies, including those of other civilizations, for example Peru,” concluded Saleem and Hawass.

Source: Cairo University

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