The digital unwinding of Pharaoh’s mummy reveals curly hair, amulets and jewelry


Amenhotep I face mask.

Amenhotep I face mask.
Photography: Saleem et al., Frontiers in Medicine 2021

The mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep I has been undisturbed for thousands of years, but now scientists have used non-invasive images to see inside the burial shrouds. Their research revealed some new details about the interrupted life – though it is still a mystery why this ruler died around the year 35.

CT scan of Amenhotep I. body inside the envelope.

CT scan of Amenhotep I. body inside the envelope.
Picture: Saleem et al., Frontiers in Medicine 2021

Amenhotep I ruled from 1525 BC. Kr. to 1504 BC 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. About 400 years after his death, his mummy was opened to repair the damage done by the grave robbers and subsequently reburied; in modern times, it is kept in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Officials at the museum have decided not to open the mummy because of its beautiful preservation, including millennia-old wreaths adorning the body, according to press release about new research.

Scholars wanted to understand the events surrounding Amenhotep’s death, mummification and subsequent reburial. They discovered that he had died in his mid-thirties and that he was nearby 5 feet 5 inches high. Details of Fr. their work are Published in Frontiers in Medicine.

Sahar Saleem, a radiologist at Cairo University and lead author of the study, told Gizmodo that one of the most exciting elements of the research was “the opportunity to discover the face of Amenhotep I and see his facial features reminiscent of those of his father, Ahmose I.” ” The discoveries were possible, Saleem said, thanks to “advances in technology that made digital unwinding of the mummy non-invasive, preserving it.”

CT (computed tomography) scans—the kind used to look at Amenhotep’s remains—use X-rays to image regions of the body that are otherwise inaccessible. The scans take thousands of images of slices of the body, which can be assembled into high-quality 3D views. The technology is of particular use for examining mummies, given that the remains are both fragile and ensconced in many layers of wrappings. Just this year, CT scans illuminated a 3200 year old mud-covered mummy and discovered the first known pregnant mummy, who had previously been misidentified as a man.

CT scan of the head of Amenhotep I, showing Pharaoh's hair.

CT scan of the head of Amenhotep I, showing Pharaoh’s hair.
Photography: Saleem et al., Frontiers in Medicine 2021

A scan revealed 30 different amulets and a belt of gold beads adorning the mummy. They could not find any indication that Amenhotep I. had died of a bodily wound or a noticeable disease. The body was mutilated, but researchers suspect that the autopsy was performed by grave robbers. The areas hacked were the neck and limbs – typical places for jewelry, the researchers said in the study.

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Researchers have found that the pharaoh still has some strands of hair, which are curly. It still has all the teeth, and the top row protrudes slightly. Pharaoh was circumcised and his penis was wrapped on his own. Special wraps were placed on the head, arms and genitals to help the deceased travel to the afterlife, Saleem explained..

He ruled in the era of the New Kingdom: the pinnacle of ancient Egyptian civilization. said Saleem. “The civilization of that time was very rich and advanced in all aspects, including mummification. The royal mummies of the New Kingdom were the best-preserved ancient bodies ever found. ”

There is no evidence that embalmers tried to remove the pharaohs the brain, which is still inside the skull, nor his heart. Usually, Saleem said, “embalmers have removed internal organs to avoid rotting the body. All the organs except the heart were removed, because the ancient Egyptians believed that the heart was the house of the soul. “

Saleem added that some of the decorations on the mummy were probably added by later embalmers to deal with those traces of hacking made by grave robbers. Even centuries after Pharaoh’s death, the ancient Egyptians still cared for their dead.

More: 11 best archeological finds of 2021


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