Pharaoh Amenhotep I developed digitally

Secrets Under Bandages – Non-destructively Discovered: Using CT scans, scientists gained insight into the approximately 3,500-year-old mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep I. They revealed the features of the king and his belongings, and also refuted the supposition about the history of the mummy, which was restored in ancient Egyptian times. The priests did not steal any tomb goods for reuse – they tried their best to restore it to the original state, the researchers report.

The mummies look almost like archaeological gifts just waiting to be unpacked. For this reason, few royal mummies escaped the curiosity of Egyptologists. However, there is one notable exception: the mummy of Amenhotep I. The Eighteenth Dynasty Pharaoh, also known as Amenhotep I, ruled from 1525 to 1504 BC. about the kingdom on the Nile. It was decided to leave the mummy intact, as a non-destructive display of the dead would not be possible: she wears a realistic face mask decorated with flower garlands.

The mummy has not been discovered at the original burial site because the tomb of Amenhotep I has not yet been found. Instead, it comes from the Deir el-Bahari hideout in Luxor. There, officials of the 21st Dynasty hid the mummies of several kings and nobility of the New Kingdom to protect them from tomb robbers. Amenhotep’s mummy lay there in the sarcophagus. Its hieroglyphic inscriptions say that after the tombs had been destroyed by the tombs, the mummy was re-wrapped by the priests of the 21st Dynasty – more than four centuries after its original burial.

Insight into the secrets of the repaired mummy

“The fact that the mummy of Amenhotep I was never revealed in modern times gave us a unique opportunity to investigate how it was originally mummified and buried, and how it was later treated and re-buried by the chief priests of Amun,” says the lead author of the study Sahar Saleem from the University of Cairo. Together with the Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, she subjected the mummy to a CT scan. “By digitally unpacking the mummy and tearing off its virtual layers – the face mask, bandages and the mummy itself – we were able to examine this well-preserved pharaoh in unprecedented detail,” Saleem said.

According to the researchers, the results of computed tomography revealed: “Amenhotep, when he died, I was about 35 years old. The pharaoh was about 169 cm tall, was circumcised, and had exceptionally good teeth. The bandages contained 30 amulets and a unique gold belt with gold beads, ”relates Saleem. Comparisons with the features of his father Ahmes’ famous mummy have revealed: “Amenhotep I appears very similar to him physically, with a narrow chin and delicate nose, curly hair and slightly protruding upper teeth,” says Saleem.

Computed tomography shows the head of the Pharaoh and the exceptionally good condition of his teeth. (Photo: S Saleem and Z Hawass)

assumption refuted

In fact, the researchers also hoped to discover clues about the cause of death of the deceased. But apparently nothing obvious led to his early death: “We couldn’t find any wounds or deformities due to the disease that could have caused his death,” says Saleem. However, scientists found traces of massive damage – but it was inflicted on the mummy only later – reportedly by tomb robbers who also existed during the time of the pharaohs. The investigation revealed that the damage apparently had been carefully repaired during subsequent “processing” by the high priests. This involved reattaching the severed head to the body of the deceased with a resin-coated linen bandage and covering the defect in the abdominal wall. Apparently, the amulets were also reused.

The findings, therefore, run counter to an earlier assumption: Saleem and Hawass speculated that the 11th-century restorers were primarily concerned with reusing royal furniture for later pharaohs. But of course it wasn’t. “We show that, at least in the case of Amenhotep I, the priests of the 21st Dynasty lovingly repaired the damage done by the tomb robbers and restored the mummy to its former glory,” Saleem said.

Perhaps this was also due to the unflagging popularity of the pharaoh: it is known that Amenhotep I was especially worshiped. Because his reign belonged to the golden age of Egypt: the empire was united, prosperous and secure. Pharaoh built religious buildings and made successful military expeditions to Libya and northern Sudan. Overall, the early pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty laid the foundations for the splendor of later New Kingdom rulers such as Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ramses II.

Finally, Saleem and Hawass emphasize the far-reaching importance of their research for archeology: “We make it clear that CT imaging can be profitably used in anthropological and archaeological studies of mummies – also from other civilizations such as Peru,” says the scientist. .

Source: Frontiers, article in the journal: Frontiers in Medicin, doi: 10.3389 / fmed.2021.778498

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