X-rays were used to digitally unwrap the mummy of a roughly 2,300-year-old teenager, revealing 49 precious protective amulets, including a gold scarab symbolizing the heart
January 24, 2023
Digital scans of an Egyptian mummy have revealed a buried teenager with a gold “second heart,” along with dozens of other amulets the ancient Egyptians believed were important in the afterlife.
The mummy, which has been kept undisturbed in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo since 1916, dates from around 300 BC. in the time of the Ptolemies.
Sahar Saleem of Cairo University digitally unwrapped the small, gold-covered mummy using computed tomography (CT), using hundreds of high-resolution X-rays to depict the skeleton and soft tissue, revealing 49 amulets of 21 different species.
In the mummy’s chest cavity, Saleem and her team found not only a 3-centimeter gold scarab symbolizing a heart, but also a gold tongue in the mouth area of the skull, an amulet in the shape of two fingers next to the embalming indentation on the left thigh, and other religious amulets made of gold, semi-precious stones and colorful ceramics.
The boy’s own heart remained in his chest as a spiritual symbol, the researchers say, as is common with Egyptian mummies.
The amulets had supposed protective properties for the arduous journey into the afterlife, which the Egyptians believed to be after death. “The boy’s family offered him a very expensive embalming treatment to properly prepare and equip him for the subterranean journey to get safely to the afterlife,” says Saleem, like sandals to get out of the coffin and a golden tongue, to speak to.
Researchers used the CT scans to 3D print a reconstruction of the golden heart. “The big gold heart scarab amulet is really amazing, especially after I printed it and got to hold it in my hands,” says Saleem. “On the back of the 3D printed amulet were engraved markings that could represent inscriptions and spells.”
These inscriptions seemed to contain verses from Egyptian Book of the Deadstating that the heart scarab is needed to silence the heart when it is judged by the gods on the way to the afterlife.
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