Scientists Manage To Digitally ‘Unwrap’ Perfectly Preserved Royal Mummy Without Ever Opening It

Heritage Daily

Egyptologists have opened up all the royal mummies they have found in the 19th and 20th centuries, except for one. The well-preserved remains of Pharaoh Amenhotep I were left in beautiful and pristine condition because it was said to be perfectly wrapped and exquisitely decorated with flower garlands, while the face and neck has an incredibly lifelike facemask adorned with gorgeous colorful stones.

But for the first time ever, Egyptian scientists chose to use a three-dimensional CT (computed tomography) scan in order to ‘digitally unwrap’ the gorgeous mummy, and finally study its insides.


Experts share that this was the first time in 3000 years that Amenhotep’s mummy was opened. Reportedly, the last time was back in the 11th century BCE, which was a staggering four centuries after the royal’s original mummification and burial.

The hieroglyphics show that during the 21st dynasty, priests restored and reburied royal mummies from other ancient dynasties in order to fix damage done by grave robbers.

Professor of radiology at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University and the radiologist of the Egyptian Mummy Project, Dr. Sahar Saleem, who is also the study’s first author shares, “This fact that Amenhotep I’s mummy had never been unwrapped in modern times gave us a unique opportunity: not just to study how he had originally been mummified and buried, but also how he had been treated and reburied twice, centuries after his death, by High Priests of Amun.”

She also said, “By digitally unwrapping of the mummy and ‘peeling off’ its virtual layers—the facemask, the bandages, and the mummy itself—we could study this well-preserved pharaoh in unprecedented detail.”

“We show that Amenhotep I was approximately 35 years old when he died. He was approximately 169cm tall, circumcised, and had good teeth. Within his wrappings, he wore 30 amulets and a unique golden girdle with gold beads. 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,” Saleem added.


She also said, “We couldn’t find any wounds or disfigurement due to disease to justify the cause of death, except numerous mutilations post mortem, presumably by grave robbers after his first burial. His entrails had been removed by the first mummifiers, but not his brain or heart.”

Amenhotep I’s mummy, whose name means ‘Amun is satisfied,’ was discovered in 1881 buried amongst other royal mummies at an archeological site in southern Egypt named Deir el Bahari.

Amenhotep was the second pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th dynasty, taking his place after his father Ahmose I had pushed out the invading Hyksos and managed to reunite Egypt. He ruled from around 1525 to 1504 BCE, which was considered a kind of golden age in Egypt. The country was considered safe and prosperous, with the royal pharaoh ordered a religious building spree while leading a number of successful military expeditions to northern Sudan and Libya. When he died, his remains, and that of his mother Ahmose-Nefertari, were worshiped as gods.

Alongside Dr. Sahar Saleem’s co-author, Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, the partners previously speculated that for the restorers from the 11th century, their main intention was to reuse royal burial equipment for pharaohs that lived later on. Yet here they managed to disprove their own theory, which they share in their study. You can see it published in Frontiers in Medicine.

Saleem explains, “We show that at least for Amenhotep I, the priests of the 21st dynasty lovingly repaired the injuries inflicted by the tomb robbers, restored his mummy to its former glory, and preserved the magnificent jewelry and amulets in place.”

Since the New Kingdom in Egyptian Antiquity Ministry Project was launched back in 2005, Hawass and Saleem have studied over 40 of their royal mummies. Then in April of 2021, twenty two of their royal mummies, including the mummy of Amenhotep I, were transferred to a new museum in Cairo. Moreover, it was the face of Amenhotep I’s mummy and its mask that was the main icon of the incredible ‘Royal Golden Mummy Parade’ that happened on March 3, 2021 in Cairo.

In conclusion, Hawass and Saleem said, “We show that CT imaging can be profitably used in anthropological and archeological studies on mummies, including those from other civilizations, for example Peru.”

You can watch the Royal Golden Mummy Parade in the video below.


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