The ‘golden child’ mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

The ‘golden child’ mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

The 'golden child' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

The mummy was adorned with garlands of ferns and wore a golden face mask. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, Mel-Halwagy

The ancient Egyptians believed that when we died, our spiritual body sought an afterlife similar to this world. But entry into this afterlife was not guaranteed; first required a perilous journey through the underworld, followed by an individual final judgment. For this reason, relatives and embalmers did everything possible so that their loved one reached a happy destination.

Scientists in Egypt have now used computed tomography (CT) to “digitally unwrap” the intact and never-opened mummy of a 2,300-year-old teenager of high socioeconomic status. They discovered a “golden child,” an unfazed showcase of ancient Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife. For example, he was sent on his way with no less than 49 amulets of 21 kinds to promote his bodily resurrection. He wore sandals and was adorned with garlands of ferns, rich in ritual significance.

These results provide unique insight into mummification procedures and beliefs about the importance of tomb ornaments during the Ptolemaic period. 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 three-column arrangement between the folds of the wrappings and within the mummy’s body cavity. These include the Eye of Horus, the beetle, the akhet amulet of the horizon, the placenta, the Knot of Isis, and others, many of them made of gold, others of semi-precious stones, baked clay or earthenware, in order to protect the body and give it vitality in the most there,” said Dr. Sahar Saleem, first author of the study and a professor at Cairo University School of Medicine, Egypt.

The 'golden child' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

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

Sandals to walk to the afterlife

The “golden child” mummy was found in 1916 in a burial ground used between approximately 332 and 30 BC. C. in Nag el-Hassay, in southern Egypt. It has been stored unexamined in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo until the present study.

The mummy was deposited inside two coffins, an outer coffin with a Greek inscription and an inner wooden sarcophagus. Inside, she wore a golden head mask, a pectoral carton covering the front of her torso, and a pair of sandals. Aside from her heart, her viscera had been removed through an incision, while her brain had been removed through her nose and replaced with resin.

“The sandals were probably meant to allow the child to get out of the coffin. According to the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead ritual, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and clean before reciting his verses,” Saleem said.

The 'golden child' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

Amulets were placed on or inside the mummy in three columns. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, Mel-Halwagy

no wisdom teeth

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

Ferns were festooned around the outer surface of the mummy. “The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by plants and flowers and believed that they had sacred and symbolic effects. Bouquets of plants and flowers were placed next to the deceased at the time of burial: this was done, for example, with the mummies of kings of the New Kingdom, Ahmose, Amenhotep I and Ramses the Great. The deceased was also offered plants at every visit to the dead during the holidays,” Saleem said.

The amulets are a testament to a wide range of Egyptian beliefs. For example, a golden tongue blade was placed inside the mouth to ensure the child could speak in the afterlife, while a two-fingered amulet was placed next to her penis to protect the embalming incision. An Isis knot enlisted the power of Isis in protecting the body, a right-angled amulet was meant to bring balance and leveling, and double falcon and ostrich feathers represented the duality of spiritual and material life. A golden beetle was found positioned inside the chest cavity, a copy of which was 3D printed by the researchers.

  • The 'golden child' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

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

  • The 'golden child' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

    The mummy’s face on CT scans. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, Mel-Halwagy

  • The 'golden child' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

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

  • The 'golden child' mummy was protected by 49 precious amulets, CT scans reveal

    3D printed copy of the goldenheart beetle, positioned inside the thoracic cavity. Credit: SN Saleem, SA Seddik, Mel-Halwagy

Beetle to silence the heart

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

Based on these exciting results, the management of the Egyptian Museum decided to move the mummy to the main exhibition hall under the nickname “Golden Child”. In its new location, visitors can admire the mummy alongside CT scan images and a 3D-printed version of the heart scarab amulet, to get as close as possible to the glories of ancient Egyptian civilization.

More information:
3D computed tomography (CT) scanning and printing of the ‘Golden boy’ mummy, Frontiers in Medicine (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fmed.2022.1028377

Citation: ‘Golden Child’ Mummy Protected by 49 Precious Amulets, CT Scans Reveal (January 24, 2023) Accessed January 24, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-01-golden- boy-mummy-precious-amulets .html

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