The ‘golden boy’ mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

The ‘golden boy’ mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

The 'golden boy' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

The mummy was wreathed with ferns and wore a gilded face mask. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, M el-Halwagy

The ancient Egyptians believed that after we die, our spiritual body seeks an afterlife similar to this world. But entry into this afterlife was not guaranteed; it first required a perilous journey through the underworld, followed by an individual Last Judgment. For this reason, relatives and embalmers did everything possible so that their loved ones could reach a happy destination.

Scientists from Egypt have now used computed tomography (CT) to “digitally unpack” the intact, never opened mummy of a 2,300-year-old teenager with high socioeconomic status. They discovered a “Golden Boy,” an undisturbed showcase of ancient Egyptian beliefs about life after death. For example, he was sent on his journey with no fewer than 49 amulets of 21 types to promote his bodily resurrection. He wore sandals and was wreathed with ferns rich in ritual significance.

These results provide a unique insight into mummification practices and beliefs about the importance of funerary decorations during the Ptolemaic period. They are published in frontiers in medicine.

“Here we show that the body of this mummy was extensively decorated with 49 amulets, beautifully stylized in a unique arrangement of three columns between the folds of the wrappings and in the body cavity of the mummy. These include the Eye of Horus, the Scarab, the Achet Amulet of the Horizon, the Placenta, the Knot of Isis, and others. Many were made of gold, some of semi-precious stones, baked clay or faience. Their purpose was to protect the body and give it vitality in the afterlife. said Dr. Sahar Saleem, the first author of the study and a professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Egypt.

The 'golden boy' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

The mummy digitally unwrapped in four stages. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, M el-Halwagy

Sandals to go to the afterlife

The mummy of the “golden boy” had been found in 1916 in a cemetery at Nag el-Hassay in southern Egypt, dating between about 332 and 30 BC. was used. Until the present investigation, it was stored unchecked in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The mummy was placed in two coffins, an outer coffin with Greek inscription and an inner wooden sarcophagus. Inside, he wore a gilded head mask, a chest box covering the front of the torso, and a pair of sandals. Aside from the heart, the intestines had been removed through an incision, while the brain had been removed through the nose and replaced with resin.

“Probably the sandals were intended to enable the boy to climb out of the coffin. According to the ancient Egyptians’ ritual book of the dead, in order to be pious and clean, the deceased had to wear white sandals before he could recite his verses,” Saleem said.

The 'golden boy' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

Amulets were placed in three pillars on or in the mummy. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, M el-Halwagy

No wisdom teeth

The CT scans showed the boy was 128 cm tall, uncircumcised and with no known cause of death other than natural causes. From the degree of bone fusion and the unerupted wisdom teeth, the authors estimate that the boy was between 14 and 15 years old. His teeth were good with no evidence of decay, tooth loss or periodontal disease.

Ferns were adorned around the outer surface of the mummy. “The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by plants and flowers and believed them to have sacred and symbolic effects. Bouquets of plants and flowers were placed next to the deceased at the time of burial: this happened, for example, with the mummies of the New Kingdom kings Ahmose, Amenhotep I and Ramses the Great. Plants were also offered to the deceased whenever they visited the dead during the festivals,” Saleem said.

The amulets testify to a wide range of Egyptian beliefs. For example, a gold tongue blade was placed in the mouth to ensure the boy could speak in the afterlife, while a two-fingered amulet was placed next to his penis to protect the embalming incision. An Isis knot contributed the power of Isis to protect the body, a right-angled amulet was said to bring balance and leveling, and doubled hawk and ostrich feathers represented the duality of spiritual and material life. A golden scarab beetle was found in the chest cavity, and the researchers 3D printed a copy of it.

  • The 'golden boy' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

    The mummy’s coffin. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, M el-Halwagy

  • The 'golden boy' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

    Mummy’s face on CT scans. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, M el-Halwagy

  • The 'golden boy' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

    The mummy had excellent teeth. Arrows: the unerupted wisdom teeth. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, M el-Halwagy

  • The 'golden boy' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show

    3D printed copy of the golden heart scarab placed in the chest cavity. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, M el-Halwagy

Scarab to silence the heart

“The Heart Scarab is mentioned in Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead: it was important in the afterlife in judging the deceased and weighing the heart against the feather of the goddess Maat. The heart scarab silenced the heart on Judgment Day so as not to testify against the deceased. It was placed in the torso cavity during mummification to replace the heart if the body was ever deprived of that organ,” Saleem explained.

Based on these exciting results, the management of the Egyptian Museum decided to move the mummy to the main exhibition hall, nicknamed the “Golden Boy”. At its new location, visitors can admire the mummy alongside CT images and a 3D printed version of the Heart Scarab Amulet to get as close as possible to the glory of ancient Egyptian civilization.

More information:
Computed Tomography (CT) Scanning and 3D Printing of the “Golden Boy” Mummy frontiers in medicine (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fmed.2022.1028377

Citation: “Golden boy” mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans show (2023, January 24), retrieved January 24, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-01-golden-boy -mummy-precious-amulets.html

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