Amenhotep I: the art of “undressing” the pharaoh

mummy mummy mask

All the royal mummies of Ancient Egypt found in the 19th and 20th centuries have long since been opened up for study. With one exception: Egyptologists have never dared to open the mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep I, according to the scientific publication Frontiers in Medicine (FiM). This is not because of a “mythical curse”, but because this mummy is perfectly wrapped, beautifully decorated with flower garlands and with the face and neck covered by an exquisite realistic face mask inlaid with colored stones, the magazine explains. academic. But now, for the first time, Egyptian scientists have used three-dimensional computed tomography (3D-CT) to “digitally unwrap” this royal mummy and study its contents, reporting their findings at FiM.

3D-CT is a non-destructive scanning technology that allows the external and internal structures of an object to be viewed and inspected by taking hundreds or thousands of digital X-rays and rotating around them 360 degrees. It is used as a diagnostic technique to locate lesions and for surgical simulation in neurosurgery.

For this research, the mummy of Amenhotep I (also called Amenophis I) was ‘opened’ with digital technology for the first time in three millennia, that is, since the 11th century BC

The mummy had previously only been opened in the 11th century BC, more than four centuries after the original mummification and burial of Pharaoh Amenhotep I, who died around 1504 BC.

Hieroglyphics have described how during the late Egyptian 21st dynasty, priests restored and reburied royal mummies from older dynasties, to repair damage caused by tomb robbers, FiM explains.

AN EXCEPTIONAL SCIENTIFIC OPPORTUNITY

“The fact that the mummy of Amenhotep I had never been unwrapped in modern times gave us a unique opportunity,” explains Dr. Sahar Saleem, professor of radiology at Cairo University School of Medicine (Egypt), radiologist of the Egyptian Mummy Project, and first author of the study.

The study of the mummy using 3D-CT has not only made it possible to “study how (the pharaoh) had originally been mummified and buried, but also how he had been treated and reburied a second time, centuries after his death, by the Supreme priests of Amun,” according to Dr. Saleem.

“By ‘digitally unwrapping’ the mummy and ‘virtually peeling back’ its layers (the mask, the bandages and the mummy itself), we were able to study this well-preserved pharaoh in unprecedented detail,” emphasizes this well-known radiologist, who has scanned numerous mummies of ancient Egyptian kings.

“We showed that Amenhotep I was approximately 35 years old when he died, was approximately 169 centimeters tall, circumcised, and had good teeth,” Saleem explains, adding that “inside his wrappings, he wore 30 amulets and a unique golden belt with diamond beads. Prayed”. According to this expert “it seems that Amenhotep I physically resembled his father (Ahmosis I) since he had a narrow chin, a small and narrow nose, curly hair and slightly protruding upper teeth”. Saleem asserts that they could “find no injury or disfigurement due to disease to substantiate the cause of death, except numerous ‘post-mortem’ mutilations, presumably perpetrated by grave robbers after his first burial.

revered

“His entrails had been removed by the first mummifiers, but not his brain or his heart,” he points out.

The mummy of Amenhotep I (whose name means “Amun is satisfied”) was discovered in 1881, among other royal mummies that were reburied again in the past, at the Deir el Bahari archaeological site in southern Egypt, according to FiM. .

The mummy was hidden in Deir el Bahri by the priests of a later dynasty (the 22nd) to protect it from tomb robbers, according to Dr. Saleem. She emphasizes that thanks to that “now we can see in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo the beautiful sarcophagus of King Amenhotep I covered with dried flowers, inside which is the king’s mummy.” Amenhotep I was the second pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th dynasty (after his father Ahmose I, who expelled the invading Hyksos people and reunited Egypt) and ruled from about 1525 to 1504 BC. C. His successor was Thutmose I. His reign of two decades was considered as a kind of ‘golden age’, since during that stage Egypt was prosperous and safe, while the pharaoh gave a great impetus to religious constructions ( including the Karnak temple) and led successful military expeditions to Libya and northern Sudan, according to Frontiers in Medicine.

After his death, Amenhotep I and his mother, Ahmose-Nefertari, were worshiped as gods, according to this source. Sahar Saleem and study co-author Egyptologist Zahi Hawass had previously considered the possibility that 11th-century mummy restorers may have attempted to reuse the burial equipment and materials of Egyptian royalty to mummify later pharaohs, but this research with 3D-CT has refuted his own theory. It has been proven that at least as far as Amenhotep I is concerned, the priests of the 21st dynasty lovingly repaired the damage inflicted on the mummy by tomb robbers, restoring it to its former glory and preserving the magnificent jewels and amulets in its original state. place, says Saleem.

Study

Scientists ‘digitally unwrapped’ the mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep I and studied the beautiful covering that keeps it hidden, showing that it was ‘lovingly restored’, dispelling the theory that priests tried to reuse royal burial material previously used to restore it.

Particular case

The mummy of Amenhotep I was virtually unwrapped by 3D computed tomography scanning, being one of the few real mummies remaining physically unopened in modern times.

Data

The scans show that the pharaoh was about 35 years old, 169 centimeters tall, circumcised and in good physical health when he died, apparently of natural causes, and that his brain and heart were not removed from the mummy.

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