The photos show the inside of the mummy of a young teenager from 2300 years ago.
Nicknamed the “golden boy”, the boy was mummified with 49 protective amulets.
The rare discovery sheds light on how embalmers used amulets to protect the dead in the afterlife.
A young boy whose mummy has been stored in a museum since 1916 has been found to be covered with precious amulets, according to a study published Tuesday.
A team of scientists digitally opened the 2,300-year-old mummy using a CT scanner to reveal its secrets.
The team found that the so-called “golden boy” was lavishly embalmed with gold and semiprecious stones. Exactly forty-nine protective amulets were placed on the three pillars of his body, indicating that he was wealthy and of high status.
Sahar Saleem, professor of radiology at Cairo University School of Medicine and the study’s author, told Insider in an email that the find was “absolutely extraordinary” as high-ranking mummies were often looted for their prized ornaments.
He said that because this mummy was not disturbed, it gave a unique insight into how mummies carefully placed amulets on the body to protect the dead.
talismans to protect the dead
“The ancient Egyptians believed in the power of amulets that depended on their material, color and shape,” Saleem said.
“During mummification, the mummies recited prayers and recited verses from the ‘Book of the Dead’ while placing amulets inside the mummy or between the wrappings,” he said.
Each talisman had a special meaning to protect the boy who was 14-15 years old when he died.
Scarab amulet for the heart and golden tongue for speech
Saleem said that a scarab-shaped amulet with verses from the Book of the Dead carved next to the boy’s heart would help him judge kindly in the afterlife.
“The heart scarab is mentioned in Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead; in the afterlife, it was very important when judging the deceased and weighing the heart against the feather of Maat,” the goddess of truth, justice, balance, and most orders, Saleem said.
“The heart scarab silenced the heart on the Day of Judgment so as not to testify against the deceased,” he added.
A tongue-shaped gold leaf was also placed in the boy’s mouth. This enabled the boy to speak to the gods after death.
Another remarkable amulet was placed near the boy’s penis. Saleem said the “Two-finger” talisman was meant to protect the cut they made on the torso.
Other amulets had various other protective roles. A “bottle” amulet representing carrying holy water in the afterlife. A “Djed” amulet, representing the spine of the god Osiris, ensured the safe resurrection of the deceased. A “right-angled” amulet brought balance and stability to the deceased.
Egyptologist Wojciech Ejsmond of the Warsaw Mummy Project, who was not involved in the study, told Insider the findings were “exciting” in an email.
“This study provides valuable information about how the ancient Egyptians lived, died, and what they thought would happen next,” he said.
Sandals made for walking
The boy was also seen wearing white sandals at his grave. According to the Book of the Dead, the deceased had to wear white sandals, be pious and clean before reading his verses.
“The sandals were probably meant to get the boy out of the coffin,” Saleem said in a press release.
“Golden sandals were also found in royal tombs, like Thutmose III,” Saleem told Insider.
This may indicate that the child may not be royal despite being of high rank.
A look at ancient Egyptian circumcision
Another unexpected finding has to do with the boy’s penis. Saleem said the scan showed the boy was not circumcised. This is unlike King Amenhotep I, another high-ranking figure Saleem also studied.
Saleem said this may indicate that ancient Egyptians were circumcised only in adulthood.
But Salima Ikram, head of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, has another theory.
“The lack of circumcision is interesting as it might tell us something about her ethnicity – Egyptians generally tended to be circumcised before the age of 13,” he told The Guardian.
“It might suggest that foreigners adopted Egyptian burial rituals – and we know the Persians did,” he said.
But he warned: “I wouldn’t hang all this on a fragile foreskin.”
Who was this boy?
The boy can still reveal more secrets.
It was first discovered in 1916 in a cemetery used from 332 BC to 30 BC at Nag el-Hassay in Southern Egypt, according to Cairo Egyptian Museum records.
Ejsmond said the boy would “witness the twilight of ancient Egyptian civilization, possibly the turmoil of the last Ptolemaic kings, and perhaps even a brief resurgence of Egypt’s greatness during the reign of Cleopatra.”
His name is currently unknown. But Saleem said scientists are examining his sarcophagus closely to find more clues as to who he is.
The results were published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Medicine.
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