Mummy of pharaoh Amenhotep I unwrapped ‘digitally’

In a first of its kind study scientists have unwrapped the mummy of pharaoh Amenhotep I digitally to reveal its content.

Egyptologists never opened the mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep I because it is perfectly wrapped, beautifully decorated with flower garlands, and with face and neck covered by an exquisite lifelike facemask inset with colorful stones. However, that has changed – at least digitally – as scientists from Egypt have used three-dimensional CT (computed tomography) scanning to ‘digitally unwrap’ this royal mummy and study its contents. They report their findings in Frontiers in Medicine.

This was the first time in three millennia that Amenhotep’s mummy has been opened. The previous time was in the 11th century BCE, more than four centuries after his original mummification and burial. Hieroglyphics have described how during the later 21st dynasty, priests restored and reburied royal mummies from more ancient dynasties, to repair the damage done by grave robbers.

The mummy of Amenhotep I (whose name means ‘Amun is satisfied’) was discovered in 1881 – among other reburied royal mummies –  at the archeological site Deir el Bahari in southern Egypt. The second pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th dynasty (after his father Ahmose I, who had expelled the invading Hyksos and reunited Egypt), Amenhotep ruled from approximately 1525 to 1504 BCE. His was a kind of golden age: Egypt was prosperous and safe, while the pharaoh ordered a religious building spree and led successful military expeditions to Libya and northern Sudan. After his death, he and his mother Ahmose-Nefertari were worshipped as gods.

Scientists had previously speculated that the main intention of the restorers from the 11th century was to reuse royal burial equipment for later pharaohs. But here they disprove their own theory.

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