Mummified “golden boy” found with 49 charms to speed up the journey to the afterlife

Research suggests that wealthy ancient Egyptians received dozens of amulets during mummification in the hope that it would speed up their journey to the afterlife.

Scientists have digitally unwrapped the 2,300-year-old mummified body of a wealthy ancient Egyptian “golden boy” and found 49 amulets of 21 different types on him.

The boy, who was believed to be 14 or 15 when he died, was about 4 feet 2 inches tall and is believed to have died of natural causes.

The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife, access to which was not guaranteed. People had to make a perilous journey through the underworld before the final judgment, and friends and relatives did everything in their power to bring their loved one to their happy destination.

The amulets were placed along the body in three columns (SN Saleem/SA Seddik/M el-Halwagy/PA)

Scientists in Egypt used CT scans to discover the amulets.

The study’s first author, Dr Sahar Saleem of Cairo University, said: “Here we show that the body of this mummy was extensively adorned with 49 amulets, beautifully styled in a unique arrangement of three columns between the folds of the wrappings and inside the body cavity of the mummy.

“These include the Eye of Horus, the scarab, the akhet of the horizon, the placenta, the knot of Isis, and others.

“Many were made of gold and some of semi-precious stones, baked clay or faience.

“Their purpose was to protect the body and give it vitality in the afterlife.”

The study of the mummies of ancient Egypt

The mummy was decorated with ferns and wore a gilded mask (SN Saleem/SA Seddik/M el-Halwagy/PA)

The mummy was placed in an outer coffin with a Greek inscription and an inner wooden sarcophagus.

The boy wore a gilded mask on his head, a breastplate covering the front of his torso, and a pair of sandals.

The sandals were probably intended to enable him to get out of the coffin, because according to the ancient Egyptian funerary text The Book of the Dead, the deceased had to wear white sandals and be devout and clean before reciting its verses.

The ferns were garlanded around the mummy’s exterior as the ancient Egyptians believed the flowers and plants had sacred and symbolic meanings, while the amulets bear witness to many ancient Egyptian beliefs.

The gold leaf of the tongue was placed in his mouth to ensure he could speak in the afterlife, the knot of Isis enlisted the power of the goddess to protect the body, the right-angled amulet was meant to provide balance and alignment, and the double plumes of the falcon and ostrich represented the duality of the spiritual life and material.

The study of the mummies of ancient Egypt

A scarab with a heart of gold was placed in the chest cavity (SN Saleem/SA Seddik/M el-Halwagy/PA)

A golden scarab beetle was found in the chest cavity, which was used to silence the heart on Judgment Day so that it would not testify against the dead.

It was placed inside the torso during mummification as a substitute in case the body was ever heartless.

The mummy was found in 1916 in a cemetery used between about 332 and 30 BC at Nag el-Hassay in southern Egypt.

It was stored unexamined in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

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