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Researchers used CT scans to practically unwrap a flawless mummy

In 1881 archaeologists discovered the mummy of Amenhotep I in Deir el-Bahari, a village outside the famous Egyptian Valley of the Kings. Scientists have refused to unpack the king’s body for 140 years for fear of damaging his ornate face mask and bandages. But thanks to computed tomography (CT) technology, they no longer have to take that risk. Cairo University researchers recently digitally “unpacked” Amenhotep to learn more about his life and dynasty.

The scans revealed that he was around 35 years old when he died. “Amenhotep I appears to have been physically similar to his father: he had a narrow chin, a narrow nose, curly hair and slightly protruding upper teeth,” said Dr. Sahar Saleem, the lead author of the study, said PA Media. It is not clear why he died at such a young age. The researchers found no evidence of external wounds or disfigurements that could have contributed to his death.

Sahar Saleem et al.

What they discovered, however, were various autopsies that were probably done by grave robbers on the corpse. This damage was “lovingly repaired” by corpse priests of the 21st Dynasty around 400 years after Amenhotep’s death. They used resin-treated linen tape to put the head and neck back together. Researchers also found about 30 amulets hidden under Amenhotep’s bandages. The fact that they were still there after his reburial probably refutes the long-held theory that priests of later dynasties would reuse the ornaments in the burial rites of their pharaohs.

The study gives an insight into one of the most fascinating epochs in Egyptian history. Amenhotep I ruled between 1525 and 1504 BC. BC, during Egypt’s New Kingdom period. He was one of the first pharaohs of the 18th dynasty, a line to which Akhenaten later belonged, the controversial “heretic” pharaoh who introduced Kingdom A. seemingly monotheistic religion centered around the sun. He was also the father of Tutankhamun, or King Tut.

The first time archaeologists used a CT scan to examine a mummy was in 1977. As the technology matured and became more accessible, it allowed researchers to examine mummies in ways they could not before. In 2017, for example Chicago’s Field Museum was able to immerse himself in his collection with the help of portable CT machines, one of the largest in the USA.

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