The mummified remains of a teenager, kept unexamined in a Cairo museum for more than a century, have been digitally unwrapped for the first time, revealing a surplus of amulets and plants adorning his body.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine on Tuesday, researchers reveal that the unnamed teenager, just 14 or 15 years old, entered the afterlife wearing a pair of white sandals. They used computerized tomography (CT), which allows digital reconstructions of bones, blood vessels, soft tissue and more through X-rays, to peer inside the coffin.
“Here we show that the body of this mummy was richly decorated with 49 amulets, beautifully stylized in a unique arrangement of three columns between the folds of the shrouds and inside the mummy’s body cavity,” notes Sahar Salem, a radiologist at Cairo University in Egypt. and first author of the paper. They named the mummy “The Golden Boy”.
Salim notes that the Golden Boy’s adornments are consistent with some of the rituals described in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, including sandals. He was adorned with three columns of amulets between the folds of his pack, including items such as the Eye of Horus – a scarab beetle on his chest and a two-fingered amulet next to his penis. Many of the ornaments were made of gold.
All of his organs were removed except for his heart, and a scan showed that he also had flawless teeth.
The coffin of the Golden Boy was first discovered in 1916 in a necropolis at Nag el Hasaya, the cemetery of the city of Edfu, but was kept in the Egyptian Museum. The boy lived during the Ptolemaic period between about 330 and 30 BC and was probably of high status thanks to the “lavish gilded mask” he was buried with. The cause of his death is unknown, but there are no signs that it was unnatural, according to the inquest.
Salem and her colleagues have had beforein 2021 and is responsible for the discovery of a knife wound in the throat of Ramesses III, as well as a missing toe, suggesting that he was killed by a group of assassins.
The Egyptians believed that life does not end with death. Instead, there was an afterlife. The process of mummification and encasement in ornaments, amulets and plants is intended to help the spirit of the dead navigate the afterlife. The Golden Boy provides more evidence of the funerary rituals and significance of these ornaments during the boy’s lifetime in the Ptolemaic period.
The study led to the Egyptian Museum moving the Golden Boy from the basement to its main exhibition hall, where it will now be on display.
Updated January 23rd: Mummy details added from research paper.