Mummy That Escaped Others' Fate Gives Up Secrets

Amenhotep I was never unwrapped, unlike other pharaohs found in 19th, 20th centuries
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2021 8:54 AM CST
Mummy That Escaped Others' Fate Gives Up Secrets
Facemask of the never-before unwrapped mummy of pharaoh Amenhotep I.   (S. Saleem and Z. Hawass)

Amenhotep I ruled Egypt from 1525 to 1504 BC, and his mummy managed to escape the fate of many others: Though it was discovered in 1881, it was never unwrapped in modern times, with a press release saying it's the only royal mummy found in the 19th and 20th centuries with that distinction. As LiveScience puts it, there was good reason not to disturb it: The mummy was "exquisitely wrapped—decorated with flower garlands and buried with a lifelike face mask." That's changed, sort of. In a study published in Frontiers in Medicine, the researchers write that they carried out a non-invasive digital unwrapping using CT scans that they "hypothesized ... would provide insights on the physical appearance, health, cause of death, and mummification style of the mummy of King Amenhotep I."

The BBC reports they did indeed manage to glean a number of details about the pharaoh, who died around the age of 35. The team, led by Sahar Saleem of Cairo University, found no wounds or disfigurements caused by disease, meaning they couldn't arrive at a cause of death. He stood 5 foot 6, was circumcised, had "good teeth," and was adorned with 30 amulets and a golden girdle that co-author Zahi Hawass tells LiveScience may have had "a magical meaning." Saleem adds, "Amenhotep I seems to have physically resembled his father: he had a narrow chin, a small narrow nose, curly hair, and mildly protruding upper teeth."

Among the surprises: He is apparently the first pharaoh to have been mummified with his forearms folded across his chest, and his brain was left in his body, which is atypical. The researchers note the mummy suffered from multiple postmortem injuries, likely at the hands of tomb robbers, that were apparently mended by 21st Dynasty embalmers some 400 years after his death. Among them: "fixing the detached head and neck to the body with a resin-treated linen band; covering a defect in the anterior abdominal wall with a band and placing two amulets beneath; placement of the detached left upper limb beside the body and wrapping it to the body." (More discoveries stories.)

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