Digitally Unwrapped Mummy Reveals Ancient Pharaoh

Thanks to their exquisite mummification practices, ancient Egyptians have left for us mounds of physical evidence detailing their physiologies at time of death. Including what treasures they had in their mouthsand wombs. Now, a team of archaeologists has used CT scans to digitally unwrap a mummy. Through this process, the archaeologists revealed the face and organs of Amenhotep I. Amenhotep I ruled as Pharaoh at the dawn of the New Kingdom of Egypt.

A CT scan of the mummified body of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I. This mummy was digitally unwrapped.
Sahar N. Saleem et al. / Frontiers in Medicine

BBC News reported on the new Amenhotep I CT scans. The archaeologists used these scans to conduct a “non-invasive digital unwrapping” of the mummy. CT scans, or computerized tomography scans, use a series of X-ray images and computer processing to provide insight into a person’s innards. Or, in this case, into what’s underneath Amenhotep I’s sarcophagus and wrappings.

The archaeologists reported on the study in the journal Frontiers in Medicine. They shared that they used CT scans to reveal the “health” of Amenhotep I. Additionally, they determined the ancient pharaoh’s appearance and cause of death. (The latter of which we all know can oftentimes prove quite mysterious.)

According to the CT scans, Amenhotep I, who ruled as a part of the New Kingdom’s 18th Dynasty in the early 16th century BCE, died when he was 35 years old. The pharaoh was approximately 5’6″ tall. And was ostensibly uninjured at the time of his death. Amenhotep, in fact, had near-perfect teeth and no signs of any wounds or disfigurements.

A CT scan of the mummified body of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I.
Sahar N. Saleem et al. / Frontiers in Medicine

Due to his lack of injuries, the archaeologists speculate Amenhotep I died of a viral or bacterial infection. Regardless, it appears as if the pharaoh sustained multiple postmortem injuries. These likely came from tomb robbers from the same period who sought jewels and amulets. (White arrows point out two of the injuries in the image immediately above.)

“We got to see the face of the king that has been wrapped for more than 3,000 years,” Dr. Sahar Saleem told BBC News. Saleem, a professor of radiology at Cairo University and lead author of the study, added that the CT scans revealed Amenhotep had 30 amulets. He also donned a “unique” beaded metallic girdle, likely made of gold.

A CT scan of the mummified head of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I.
Sahar N. Saleem et al. / Frontiers in Medicine

Even though Amenhotep did take damage postmortem—the archaeologists speculate 21st Dynasty embalmers fixed the pharaoh’s detached head with a resin-treated linen band. It’s still possible to identify a “preserved desiccated brain” resting in the back of his head (above). Even the pharaoh’s heart is visible in the CT scans. Which shows his tomb robbers maybe had ones too? Or at least a fear of the afterlife.

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