Wealthy ancient Egyptians received dozens of amulets when they were mummified in hopes of speeding up their journey to the afterlife, a study suggests.
Scientists have “digitally unwrapped” the mummified body of a wealthy “golden child” from 2,300-year-old ancient Egypt and found 49 amulets of 21 different types on it.
The boy, believed to have been 14 or 15 years old when he died, was around 4 feet 2 inches tall and is believed to have died of natural causes.
The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife to which entry was not guaranteed. The people needed to embark on a perilous journey through the underworld before a final judgment, with friends and family doing everything they could to ensure their loved one reached a happy destination.
Scientists in Egypt used CT scans to make the discovery of the amulets.
First author of the study, Dr Sahar Saleem, from Cairo University, said: “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 casings and within the body cavity of the mummy”. .
“These include the Eye of Horus, the scarab, the akhet amulet of the horizon, the placenta, the Knot of Isis and others.
“Many were made of gold, while some were made of semi-precious stones, baked clay, or faience.
“His purpose was to protect the body and give it vitality in the afterlife.”
The mummy was deposited in an outer coffin with a Greek inscription and an inner wooden sarcophagus.
The boy wore a golden head mask, a pectoral carton covering the front of his torso, and a pair of sandals.
The sandals were probably meant to allow 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 pious and clean before reciting his verses.
Fern garlands were placed around the outer surface of the mummy because the ancient Egyptians believed that flowers and plants had sacred and symbolic meanings, while the amulets are a testament to a variety of ancient Egyptian beliefs.
A golden tongue blade was placed inside her mouth to ensure she could speak in the afterlife, an Isis knot enlisted the power of the goddess in body protection, 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 scarab was found inside the chest cavity, used to silence the heart on Judgment Day so it would not testify against the dead.
It was placed inside the torso during mummification as a stand-in in case the body was ever deprived of its heart.
The mummy was found in 1916 in a cemetery used approximately between 332 and 30 BC. C. in Nag el-Hassay, in southern Egypt.
It had been stored unexamined in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.