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A digital scan reveals the secrets of a mummy from 2,300 years ago | Egyptology

A new digital scan has revealed intimate details of a teenager mummified around 2,300 years ago.

A team of scientists led by Sahar Saleem, professor of radiology at Cairo University Faculty of Medicine, concluded that the boy and his family were wealthy and of high social status as his body was adorned with 49 precious amulets. .

Saleem said: “Many were gold, while some were semi-precious stones, fired clay or earthenware. Their purpose was to protect the body and give it vitality in the afterlife.

The team dubbed the mummy the Golden Boy. It was first discovered in 1916 in a cemetery used from 332 BC to 30 BC at Nag el-Hassay in the south Egypt. Until now, it had been stored unexamined in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Amulets on the body included a golden heart-shaped scarab stuck in its throat and a golden tongue in its mouth.

Saleem said the amulets were “beautifully stylized in a unique three-column arrangement between the folds of the casings and inside the mummy’s body cavity. These include the eye of Horus, the scarab, the horizon akhet amulet, the placenta, the knot of Isis and others.

Saleem and his team used scanners to allow them to examine the insides of the mummies without unwrapping them.

The 49 precious amulets on the unopened Golden Boy mummy have been revealed by CT scans.
The 49 precious amulets on the unopened Golden Boy mummy have been revealed by CT scans. Photo: Border

The study estimated the boy to be around 14 or 15 years old, based on the degree of bone fusion in his skeleton and the absence of wisdom teeth in his mouth. Using recent advances in CT scans, the study also established that he was uncircumcised.

Experts say this is relatively rare in mummies and suggests the teenager may not have been Egyptian, which could add to the evidence that foreigners may also have been mummified.

Commenting on the study, Professor Salima Ikram, Head of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, said, “The lack of circumcision is interesting because it might tell us something about his ethnicity – Egyptians tended to be circumcised usually before the age of 13.”

Ikram, who was not involved in the study, added: “This could suggest that foreigners adopted Egyptian burial practices – and we know the Persians did.

“He could have come from any place. He could be Nubian, Greek, Persian, anywhere in Asia Minor where they weren’t circumcised. What we can say is that he probably wasn’t Jewish.

Dr Sahar Saleem by Dr Sahar Saleem, Professor of Radiology at Cairo University Faculty of Medicine.
Dr. Sahar Saleem, Professor of Radiology at Cairo University Faculty of Medicine.

She pointed out that only the latest CT scans can capture this level of detail on a mummified body. But she cautioned: “I wouldn’t hang all of this on a fragile foreskin.”

One of the amulets discovered in the study was shaped like two fingers and was placed next to the boy’s penis.

According to the British Museum, such amulets represents the hand of the embalmer. Saleem’s team said he was placed near the embalming incision in the belief that it would help the body heal in the afterlife.

But Ikram is less certain of this interpretation. She said: “Two-finger amulets appear in other parts of the body. We don’t really know what that means.

“You could interpret it as the midwife’s hands as she uses two fingers to remove mucus from a child’s mouth. According to the Egyptians, when you die, you are reborn.

She added, “For the Egyptians, the process of mummification was a metamorphosis, when you changed from a human being to a divine being, and the flesh of the gods is gold.”

Scans revealed that the boy was wearing sandals. Saleem said: “The sandals were probably meant to get the boy out of the coffin. According to the ritual of the Book of the Dead of the ancient Egyptians, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and clean before reciting its verses.

Ikram praised the research detail. “It’s very nice to have a study with this level of detail. This is part of building a larger data set for Egyptologists to better understand the lives of ancient peoples and their religious and cultural beliefs.

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