All royal mummies that were found throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Egypt have been opened to study in detail the interior, except one: that of the Pharaoh Amenhotep I .
Scientists have never dared to open it, but not because of fear of a curse from the afterlife (like the one said to be placed on Howard Carter and Lord Carvanon for opening Tutankhamun’s tomb), but because it is perfectly wrapped , decorated with garlands of flowers and with the face and neck covered by a mask encrusted with colored stones.
Hidden for millennia
It is the first time in three millennia that the interior of the mummy of Amenhotep I has been revealed, although this time without having to open it. The previous one was in the 11th century BC , more than four centuries after its original mummification and burial. Hieroglyphs have described how, during the closing stages of the 21st dynasty, priests restored and reburied older mummies to repair damage caused by grave robbers.
“The fact that the mummy of Amenhotep I had never been unwrapped in modern times gave us a unique opportunity: not only to study how it had originally been mummified and buried, but also how it had been treated and reburied twice, centuries after his death, by the high priests of Amun ”, explains Sah8ar Saleem , professor at the University of Cairo (Egypt) and first signatory of the study.
“By digitally unwrapping the mummy and virtually ‘peeling’ its layers – the linen bandages once unrolled can reach more than a kilometer in length – we have been able to study this pharaoh in unprecedented detail,” explains the researcher.
A young pharaoh
Saleem and his team have shown that Amenhotep I was approximately 35 years old when he died, he was about 169 cm tall, circumcised, and had good teeth. Inside the envelope, she wore 30 charms and a gold sash with beads of the same material.
By digitally unwrapping the mummy and virtually ‘peeling’ its layers, we have been able to study this pharaoh in unprecedented detail.Sahar Saleem (Cairo University)
“Amenhotep probably looked like his father: he had a narrow chin, a small and narrow nose, curly hair and slightly protruding upper teeth,” says Saleem, who explains that they could not find “any wound or disfigurement due to disease that would justify the cause of death ”, except“ numerous post-mortem mutilations, presumably carried out by grave robbers after their first burial ”.
Medicine techniques applied to the study of mummies
Computed tomography is a diagnostic technique, widely used in medicine, which is based on the penetrating power of X-rays to obtain images of the interior of the patient’s body or, in this case, of the interior of a mummy.
“X-rays are low-energy photons that can penetrate low-density objects like soft tissue and wood, but not dense objects like bones and metals. This variability in penetration makes them valuable to differentiate between materials during imaging ”, the researcher explains to SINC.
The authors have studied by means of computerized tomography more than 40 royal mummies , as well as several mummies of nobles and people of the time, as members of the ” Egyptian Mummy Project “, dependent on the country’s Ministry of Antiquities.
“We have found that images obtained by computed tomography can be used profitably in anthropological and archaeological studies of mummies, including those of other civilizations such as Peru,” the authors conclude.
Some facts about this pharaoh
The mummy of Amenhotep I (whose name means “Amun is satisfied”) was discovered in 1881 – along with other royal mummies reburied – at the archaeological site of Deir el Bahari , in southern Egypt. He was the second pharaoh of the 18th Egyptian dynasty (after his father Ahmose I, who had driven out the invading Hyksos and reunified Egypt), and he ruled between approximately 1525 and 1504 BC.
His was something of a golden age: Egypt was prosperous and secure, while Pharaoh ordered a wave of religious buildings and led successful military expeditions to Libya and northern Sudan . After his death, he and his mother Ahmose-Nefertari were worshiped as gods.
Saheem, Hawass, et al. “Digital unwrapping of the mummy of King Amenhotep I (1525-1504 BC) using Computed Tomography (CT)”. Frontiers in Medicine , 2021 DOI: 10.3389 / fmed.2021.778498
Rights: Creative Commons.