(CNN) — A teenager was mummified and adorned with 49 protective amulets and a golden mask to guide him through the afterlife 2,300 years ago in Egypt.
The researchers discovered the amulets placed on and within the body of the mummified “golden child” when they used CT scans to digitally unwrap the remains without altering them.
The remains were first discovered in 1916 in a burial ground called Nag el-Hassay used from approximately 332 B.C. C. and 30 a. C. in southern Egypt. Thousands of preserved bodies, many still inside their original coffins, were excavated in Egypt in the 19th and early 20th centuries before being transferred to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Like many others, the mummy was not examined after its discovery and was moved to the basement of the museum.
Although researchers are interested in learning more about ancient human health, as well as the death rites and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, unwrapping mummified remains is a destructive process. In recent years, researchers have used CT scans to probe beneath the wrappings, leaving the bodies fully intact.
The remains of the “golden child” were kept in two nested coffins. The outer coffin was smooth and inscribed with Greek letters, while the inner wooden sarcophagus was patterned and had a gilt face.
When the researchers examined the mummy, they discovered 49 amulets with 21 different designs, including a gold tongue placed inside the mouth and a gold heart-shaped scarab located on the chest, which the ancient Egyptians believed could aid in healing. transition to the afterlife.
The youth, believed to be between 14 and 15 years old, also wore a golden, stone-encrusted mask on his head and a protective covering called cartonage on his torso. They had removed all his organs except his heart, and replaced his brain with resin.
journey to the afterlife
The ancient Egyptians believed that an afterlife awaited them after death, but reaching the afterlife required a perilous journey through the underworld. The embalmers were in charge of preparing the bodies for this passage, and the “golden child” was well equipped for the trip, according to a study published this Tuesday in the academic journal Frontiers in Medicine.
“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 wrappings and within the mummy’s body cavity. Among them are 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, others made of semi-precious stones, baked clay or earthenware. Their purpose was to protect the body and give it vitality in the afterlife,” he explained in Dr. Sahar Saleem, an author of the study and a professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, said in a statement.
White sandals had been placed on her feet, while her body was adorned with ferns.
“The sandals were probably intended to allow the child to walk out of the coffin. According to the Egyptian Book of the Dead ritual, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and clean before reciting his verses,” Saleem explains. “The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by plants and flowers and believed they had sacred and symbolic effects. Bouquets of plants and flowers were placed next to the deceased at the time of burial.”
Although the scans did not clarify the cause of his death, they revealed that the boy was 128 centimeters tall and had an oval face with a small nose and a narrow chin.
His identity remains unknown, but his good dental hygiene, the high quality of his mummification and the amulets suggest that he was of high socioeconomic status, according to the study.
The golden tongue amulet placed in the child’s mouth was to help him speak in the afterlife. The Isis Knot amulet meant that the goddess Isis would protect the body from him. Hawk and ostrich feather amulets represented the spiritual and material aspects of life.
An amulet with two fingers, the index and middle of the right hand, was found in the lower part of the torso to protect the embalming incision. And it was believed that the golden beetle helped in the arduous underworld.
“The heart beetle is mentioned in chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead: it was important in the afterlife during the judgment of the deceased and the weighing of the heart against the feather of the goddess Maat,” Saleem said. “The heart beetle silenced the heart on Judgment Day, so that it would not testify against the deceased. It was placed inside the torso cavity during mummification to replace the heart if the body ran out of this organ.”
By collecting data using computed tomography, the researchers were able to 3D print a copy of the heart beetle.
The “golden child” has been moved to the main exhibition hall of the Egyptian Museum and will be surrounded by computer images and a copy of the heart scarab to provide more insight into the mummification process and death rites of the ancients. Egyptians.
“The aim of the exhibition was to humanize this individual from the past in order to teach modern people what life was like in ancient times,” the researchers stated in the study.