Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news of amazing discoveries, scientific advances, and more.
When a teenage boy died 2,300 years ago in Egypt, he was embalmed and decorated with 49 protective amulets and a golden mask to guide him in the afterlife.
Researchers discovered the amulets placed on and inside the mummified body of the “Golden Boy” when they used computed tomography to digitally decode the remains without disturbing them.
The remains were first discovered in 1916 in a tomb called Nag al-Hasay which was used between about 332 BC and 30 BC 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 upon its discovery and was removed to the museum’s vault.
Although researchers are interested in learning more about ancient human health, as well as the death rituals and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, decoding mummy remains is a devastating process. In recent years, researchers have used computed tomography to look under the casings while leaving the carcasses completely intact.
The golden boy’s remains were stored in two overlapping coffins. The outer coffin was simple and written in Greek letters, while the inner wooden coffin bore patterns and a gilded face.
When researchers scanned the mummy, they discovered 49 amulets of 21 different designs, including a golden tongue placed inside the mouth and a golden heart scarab located in the chest, which the ancient Egyptians believed could help transition to the afterlife.
The young man, who is believed to have been between 14 and 15 years old, also wore a gilded, stone-studded head mask and a protective cap called a cartonnage on his torso. All of his organs were removed except for his heart, and his brain was replaced with resin.
The ancient Egyptians believed that another life awaits them after death, but to reach the afterlife requires a dangerous journey through the underworld. The embalmers made sure to prepare the bodies for this passage, and the golden boy was well equipped for the journey, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal. frontiers in medicine.
“We show here that the body of this mummy was extensively decorated with 49 amulets, in beautiful style in a unique arrangement of three columns between the folds of the sheaths and within the body cavity of the mummy. These include the Eye of Horus, the scarab, the amulet of Akhet in sight, the placenta, the knot of Isis, And others. Many of them were made of gold, while some were made of semi-precious stones, fired clay, or faience. “The purpose of this was to protect the body and give it vitality in the afterlife.
White sandals were placed on his feet, while his body was crowned with ferns.
“The sandals were probably meant to enable the boy to get out of the coffin. According to the book of rituals of the ancient Egyptians, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and clean before reciting his verses.” 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 explain the cause of his death, they revealed that the boy was 4.2 feet (128 cm) tall and had an oval-shaped face with a small nose and narrow chin.
His identity remains unknown, but his good dental hygiene, and the high quality of his mummification and amulets indicate that he was in a high socioeconomic status, according to the study.
The golden tongue amulet placed in the boy’s mouth was supposed to help him speak in the afterlife. The Isis Nut amulet denotes that the goddess Isis will protect his body. The hawk and ostrich plume amulets represent the spiritual and material aspects of life.
A two-fingered amulet, shaped like the index and middle fingers of the right hand, was found in his lower torso to protect his mummification incision. And the golden scarab beetle was believed to help in the hard world of crime.
Selim said: “The scarab of the heart is mentioned in Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead: It was important in the afterlife when judging the dead and weighing the heart on the feathers of the goddess Maat.” “The scarab heart silenced the heart on Judgment Day so that it would not bear witness to the dead. It was placed inside the cavity of the torso during mummification to replace the heart if the body was deprived of this organ.”
By gathering data using CT scans, the researchers were able to 3D print a heart scarab.
The golden boy has been moved to the main exhibition hall of the Egyptian Museum and will be surrounded by cross sectional images and a copy of a scarab heart to provide more information about the mummification process, and the death rituals of the ancient Egyptians.
“The show was meant to humanize this individual from the past to teach modern people about life in ancient times,” the study researchers wrote.