They find the mummified ‘golden child’ covered with 49 precious amulets

(CNN) When a teenager died 2,300 years ago in Egypt, he was mummified and adorned with 49 protective amulets and a golden mask to guide him into the afterlife.

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 disturbing 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 remained unexamined until its discovery and was moved to the museum’s basement.

CT scans were used to virtually unwrap the mummified remains.

Courtesy of Frontiers Press

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 look under the wrappings and leave the bodies completely intact.

The golden child’s remains were stored inside two nested coffins. The outer coffin was plain and inscribed with Greek letters, while the inner wooden sarcophagus had patterns and a gilt face.

When the researchers scanned the mummy, they saw 49 amulets with 21 different designs, including a golden tongue placed inside the mouth and a golden heart scarab located on the chest, which the ancient Egyptians believed could aid in the transition to the afterlife.

The youth, believed to be between 14 and 15 years old, also wore a golden mask on his head inlaid with stones and a protective covering called cartonage on his torso. All of his organs had been removed, with the exception of his heart, and his brain was replaced with resin.

journey to the afterlife

The ancient Egyptians believed that an afterlife awaited them, but reaching the afterlife required a perilous journey through the underworld. Embalmers took it upon themselves to prepare the bodies for this step, and the golden boy was well equipped for the journey, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.
The scan revealed the face of the golden child, which has not been seen for 2,300 years.

The scan revealed the face of the golden child, which has not been seen for 2,300 years.

Courtesy of Frontiers Press

“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. These include the Eye of Horus, the beetle, the akhet amulet of the horizon, the placenta, the Knot of Isis, and others, many of them made of gold, others of semi-precious stones, baked clay or earthenware, in order to protect the body and give it vitality in the most there,” study author Dr. Sahar Saleem, a professor at Cairo University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

White sandals had been placed on her feet, while her body was crowned with ferns.

The mummy was found wearing sandals.

The mummy was found wearing sandals.

Courtesy of Frontiers Press

“The sandals were probably meant to allow the child to get out of the coffin. According to the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead ritual, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and clean before reciting his verses,” Saleem said. “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 did reveal that the boy was 128 centimeters (4.2 feet) 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 a high socioeconomic status, according to the study.

Amulets were placed on the body and put inside.

Amulets were placed on the body and put inside.

Courtesy of Frontiers Press

The golden tongue amulet placed in the boy’s mouth was meant to help him speak in the afterlife. An 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.

A two-fingered amulet, shaped like the index and middle fingers of her right hand, was found on her lower torso to protect her embalming incision. And the golden scarab was thought to help in the arduous underworld.

A golden scarab amulet was found inside the chest cavity.

A golden scarab amulet was found inside the chest cavity.

Courtesy of Frontiers Press

“The heart beetle is mentioned in chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead: it was important in the afterlife when judging the deceased and weighing the heart against the feather of the goddess Maat,” Saleem said. “The heart beetle silenced the heart on Judgment Day, so as not to bear witness against the deceased. It was placed inside the torso cavity during mummification to substitute for the heart if the body was ever deprived of this organ.”

By collecting data using the CT scans, 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 CT scan images and the copy of the heart scarab to provide more insight into the mummification process and death rites of the ancient Egyptians.

“The goal of the display was to humanize this individual from the past in order to teach modern people about life in ancient times,” the researchers wrote in the study.

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