The ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I was so exquisitely wrapped — decorated with flower garlands and ʙᴜʀɪᴇᴅ with a lifelike face mask — scientists have been hesitant to open up the remains. That is, until now.
Some 3,000 years after Amenhotep’s burial, a team of researchers used CT scans to digitally unwrap his body for the first time, virtually peering through the many layers to reveal what he would’ve looked like when alive (he took after his dad it seems).
They also found that the pharaoh, who ruled from about 1525 B.C. to 1504 B.C., was 35 years old and 5.5 feet (169 centimetres) tall when he loss; he was also circumcised and had good teeth, the researchers said. Beneath the wrappings were 30 amulets as well as “a unique golden girdle with gold beads,” study co-author Sahar Saleem, a radiology professor at Cairo University’s faculty of medicine, said in a statement.
This girdle may have had “a magical meaning,” and the amulets “each had a function to help the deceased king in the afterlife,” Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former minister of antiquities and co-author of the new study published Tuesday (Dec. 28) in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, told Live Science in an email. “Amenhotep I’s ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ is wearing a piece of jewellery called a girdle. The ancient Egyptians wore jewellery like this around their waists. Some girdles, as this one, have shell amulets on the side,” Saleem told Live Science in an email.
Egypt expanded in northern Sudan during the time that Amenhotep I reigned during the 18th dynasty. The pharaoh initiated a building program that saw the construction or expansion of numerous temples. Nobody knows how the pharaoh loss or where he was originally ʙᴜʀɪᴇᴅ.
A team led by French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero found Amenhotep’s ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ in 1881, along with several other mummies in a tomb on the west bank of Thebes (modern-day Luxor). His ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ had been placed in the tomb sometime during the 21st dynasty (around1070 B.C. to 945 B.C.) after it was robbed in ancient times. Researchers found that the robbers had ᴅᴀᴍᴀɢᴇd the pharaoh’s body. “The CT images show the extent of ᴅᴀᴍᴀɢᴇ of the ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ of Amenhotep I that involved neck fractures and decapitation, a large defect in the anterior abdominal wall, and disarticulation of the extremities,” including the right hand and foot, wrote Saleem and Hawass in their journal article. The researchers found that priests had repaired the ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ by placing detached limbs back in their place, using resin to help hold parts of the ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ together and rewrapping parts of the ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ with fresh bandages.
“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 ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ to its former glory, and preserved the magnificent jewellery and amulets in place,” said Saleem in the statement.
What loss the pharaoh is unclear. “We couldn’t find any wounds or disfigurement due to disease to justify the cause of Ԁᴇαth,” Saleem said in the statement.
The scans shed light on what the pharaoh looked like when he was alive. “Amenhotep I seems to have physically resembled his father [Ahmose I]: He had a narrow chin, a small narrow nose, curly hair, and mildly protruding upper teeth” said Saleem.
Most pharaonic mummies have been physically unwrapped or extensively studied using CT scans, the researchers said, noting that Amenhotep I was one of the few royal mummies that had not been examined in detail. “This fact that Amenhotep I’s ᴍᴜᴍᴍʏ had never been unwrapped in modern times gave us a unique opportunity: not just to study how he had originally been ᴍᴜᴍᴍɪғɪᴇᴅ and ʙᴜʀɪᴇᴅ, but also how he had been treated and reʙᴜʀɪᴇᴅ twice, centuries after his Ԁᴇαth, by High Priests of Amun,” Saleem said.