Mummy of ancient Egyptian pharaoh is “digitally unwrapped,” revealing secrets

For the first time, scientists have used three-dimensional technology to “digitally unwrap” the mummy of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh that had not been opened in 3,000 years. The scientists claimed that the mummy of Amenhotep 1 was preserved and allowed them to discover information on the ruler’s burial.

The researchers used 3D computed tomography (CT) scanning to peer inside the mummy of Amenhotep I, who ruled Egypt from roughly 1525 to 1504 BCE. The ruler’s mummy was found fully wrapped in 1881, and according to researchers, is one of the few royal mummies to not be physically unwrapped in modern times.

The scans revealed that Amenhotep was buried with 30 amulets and jewelry pieces, including a beaded metallic girdle. Their findings were published in the Frontiers in Medicine .

mummy of Amenhotep I
(A) Side view of the mummy of Amenhotep I shows the body fully wrapped in linen, covered from head to feet with floral garlands, and wearing a head mask. B) The head mask of Amenhotep’s mummy I made from cartonnage and painted wood. Sahar N. Saleem, Zahi Hawass / Frontiers in Medicine

Sahar Saleem, radiologist of the Egyptian Mummy Project and first author of the study, said that the pharaoh’s mystery provided researchers with a “unique opportunity.”

“This fact that Amenhotep I’s mummy had never been unwrapped in modern times gave us a unique opportunity: not just to study how he had originally been mummified and buried, but also how he had been treated and reburied twice, centuries after his death, by High Priests of Amun,” she said in a statement. We were able to study the well-preserved Egyptian pharaoh by digitally unwrapping the mummy, and then removing its virtual layers (the facemasks, bandages and the actual mummy) in unparalleled detail. “

mummy of Amenhotep I - side view of head
CT image of the head of the wrapped mummy of Amenhotep I reveals the component layers: the mask, the head of the mummy, and the surrounding bandages. Sahar N. Saleem, Zahi Hawass / Frontiers in Medicine

The scientists learned that Amenhotep was roughly 35 years old when he died of unknown causes. The pharaoh was originally thought to have died between the ages of 40 and 50, based on a 1932 X-ray study, and then a 1967 study estimated that he was around the age of 25.

“He was approximately 169 cm [5-and-a-half feet] tall, circumcised, and had good teeth,” Saleem said. His physical appearance seems similar to his father, Amenhotep I had curly hair and a slightly protruding top tooth.

His identity was established by hieroglyphic inscriptions placed on his coffin. The linen wrap was used to cover the mummy. It also had red, yellow, and blue floral garlands that covered his entire body. A mask with obsidian crystal pupils was placed on top.

Amenhotep had his entrails removed during the first mummification, according to researchers, however, neither his brain nor heart were found. Although the remains are “well preserved”, researchers found that Amenhotep’s entrails were also removed when he was first mummified. Researchers did not find his brain or heart. 21st Dynasty embalmers attempted to fix and rewrap the mummy about five centuries after Amenhotep’s death.

“We show that at least for Amenhotep I, the priests of the 21st dynasty lovingly repaired the injuries inflicted by the tomb robbers, restored his mummy to its former glory, and preserved the magnificent jewelry and amulets in place,” Saleem said.

Li Cohen


Li Cohen is a social media producer and trending reporter for CBS News, focusing on social justice issues.

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