Jan 25, 2022

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The contents of an ancient mummy have remained a secret for 3,500 years. But thanks to modern technology, researchers have now been able to peek inside without even disturbing it.

Scientists in Egypt used CT scans to “digitally unwrap” a mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep I reports Yahoo. This mummy was among the few discovered in the last few centuries still unopened.

The mummy of Amenhotep I, whose conquest reigned from about 1525-1504 BCE, was X-rayed in 1932 but was not unwrapped because of its “perfect wrapping”, flower garlands decorations, and “exquisite face mask,” featuring a cobra painted on it, researchers write in the peer-reviewed research journal Frontiers in Medicine.

The reason they used computerized tomography is due to the fact that it is more accurate than X-rays and has the capability to create 3-D images of organs and bones.

“This fact that Amenhotep I’s mummy had never been unwrapped in modern times gave us a unique opportunity: not just to study how he had originally been mummified and buried, but also how he had been treated and reburied twice, centuries after his death, by High Priests of Amun,” explained Professor Sahar Saleem, of radiology at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University and the radiologist of the Egyptian Mummy Project, the study’s first author, in a news release.

3,000 years ago, priests restored and then reburied Amenhotep’s mummy as well as other mummies to fix damage caused by grave robbers, researchers noted. The mummy of Amenhotep I was found in 1881 in Thebes (modern-day Luxor) along the Nile River in the south of Egypt. Amenhotep I’s original tomb has yet to be discovered.

Saleem along with Egyptologist and the study’s co-author Zahi Hawass, who have studied over 40 mummies in the Egyptian Antiquity Ministry Project, performed the CT scans in 2019 in the Gallery of Royal Mummies in the Cairo Egyptian Museum.“By digitally unwrapping of the mummy and ‘peeling off’ its virtual layers – the facemask, the bandages, and the mummy itself – we could study this well-preserved pharaoh in unprecedented detail,” Saleem recalled.

The findings demonstrate that Amenhotep I was roughly 35 years old at the time of his death. He was approximately 5’6 ft tall, had fine teeth, and was even circumcised. “Within his wrappings, he wore 30 amulets and a unique golden girdle with gold beads,” Hawass said. “Amenhotep I seems to have physically resembled his father: he had a narrow chin, a small narrow nose, curly hair, and mildly protruding upper teeth.”

According to researchers, Amenhotep I was the 2nd pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th dynasty, after his father Ahmose I. Following the death of  Amenhotep, Amenhotep I and his mother Ahmose-Nefertari were worshipped as deities.

Despite their findings, Amenhotep’s cause of death remains a mystery. “We couldn’t find any wounds or disfigurement due to disease to justify the cause of death, except numerous mutilations post mortem, presumably by grave robbers after his first burial,” Saleem noted. “His entrails had been removed by the first mummifies, but not his brain or heart.”

The possibility remains that Amenhotep died of heart failure “because there is no evidence of any diseases that Amenhotep the First had,” Hawass said in an interview with NBC News.

Strangely, the brain of Amenhotep I was intact, he noted. The mummy is also the oldest discovered to have the body’s forearms crossed in a position called the Osiris position. The data demonstrated how “technology can make discoveries without disturbing the mummy,” Hawass added.

Both Hawass and Saleem initially assumed that the people who restored the mummy 3,000 years ago recycled royal burial equipment for later pharaohs. Instead, they discovered the priests: “lovingly repaired the injuries inflicted by the tomb robbers, restored his mummy to its former glory, and preserved the magnificent jewelry and amulets in place,” Saleem explained.