The photos show the inside of the mummy of a young teenage girl from 2,300 years ago.
The child, nicknamed the “golden boy”, was mummified with 49 protective amulets.
A rare discovery sheds light on how embalmers used amulets to protect the dead in the afterlife.
A teenage boy whose mummy has been kept in a museum since 1916 was covered in precious amulets, according to research published Tuesday.
A team of scientists digitally unwrapped a 2,300-year-old mummy using a CT scan to uncover its secrets.
The team discovered that the so-called “golden boy” was richly mummified with gold and semi-precious stones. Forty-nine protective amulets were precisely placed in three columns on his body, implying that he was wealthy and of high status.
The finding is “definitely remarkable” because high-ranking mummies were often plundered for their precious ornaments, said Sahar Saleem, study author and professor of radiology at Cairo University’s faculty of medicine, in an email.
She said that because this mummy has not been tampered with, it provides unique insight into how embalmers carefully placed amulets on the body to protect the dead.
Amulets to protect the dead
“The ancient Egyptians believed in the power of amulets, which depended on their material, color and shape,” Saleem said.
“During the mummification, the embalmers said prayers and recited verses from the Book of the Dead, placing the amulets inside the mummy or between the wrappings,” she said.
Each amulet had a specific meaning to protect the boy, who was about 14 or 15 years old at the time of his death.
A scarab amulet for the heart and a golden tongue for speech
Saleem said a scarab-shaped amulet near the boy’s heart, engraved with verses from the Book of the Dead, would help him be favorably judged in the afterlife.
“The scarab of the heart was mentioned in Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead; was very important in the afterlife when judging the dead and weighing the heart with Maat’s pen,” the goddess of truth, justice, balance and most order, said Saleem.
“The scarab of the heart silenced the heart on Judgment Day so that it would not testify against the deceased,” she added.
A tongue-shaped gold leaf was also placed in the boy’s mouth. Thanks to this, the boy could talk to the gods after death.
Another notable amulet was placed near the boy’s penis. Saleem said the “two fingers” amulet was to provide protection to the incision they made on the torso.
Other amulets served different protective roles. The “flask” amulet represented the carrying of holy water in the afterlife. The “Djed” amulet, representing the backbone of the god Osiris, ensured the deceased’s safe rebirth. The “right angle” amulet provided the deceased with balance and alignment.
These findings are “exciting,” Wojciech Ejsmond, an Egyptologist with the Warsaw Mummy Project, who was not involved in the research, said in an email to Insider.
“This study provides valuable information about how the ancient Egyptians lived, died and what they think will happen next,” he said.
Sandals made for walking
A boy was also found in the grave wearing white sandals. According to the Book of the Dead, the deceased had to wear white sandals and be pious and clean before reciting its verses.
“The sandals were probably intended to allow the boy to climb out of the coffin,” Saleem said in a press release.
“Gold sandals have also been found in royal tombs, such as that of Thutmose III,” Saleem told Insider.
This may indicate that although the boy was of high rank, he may not have been a member of the royal family.
An insight into ancient Egyptian circumcision
Another unexpected discovery is the boy’s penis. Saleem said the scan suggested the boy was not circumcised. This differs from another high-ranking figure, King Amenhotep I, whom Saleem also studied.
This may indicate that ancient Egyptians were only circumcised in adulthood, Saleem said.
But Salima Ikram, head of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, has a different theory.
“The lack of circumcision is interesting because it can tell us something about his ethnicity – Egyptians were typically circumcised before the age of 13,” she told The Guardian.
“This may suggest that foreigners adopted Egyptian burial practices – and we know that the Persians did,” she said.
But she cautioned, “I wouldn’t hang it all on one fragile foreskin.”
Who was this boy?
The boy may reveal even more secrets.
According to the records of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, it was first discovered in 1916 in a cemetery used from 332 to 30 BC in Nag el-Hassay in southern Egypt.
The boy would “be an eyewitness to the decline of ancient Egyptian civilization, perhaps the turmoil of the last Ptolemaic kings, and perhaps even a brief resurgence of Egypt’s greatness during the reign of Cleopatra,” Ejsmond said.
His name is currently unknown. But scientists are carefully examining his sarcophagus to find more clues to who he was, Saleem said.
The results were published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Medicine.
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