Over a century ago, the mummy of a teenage boy was found in Nag el-Hassay, Egypt. The body remains wrapped to this day, but a team of researchers just used CT scanning to peer through the linens to find 49 amulets on and inside the boy’s body.
The mummy was in a Ptolemaic cemetery about 500 miles south of Cairo, making the remains about 2,300 years old. The CT scans the team conducted also revealed details of the boy’s health before he died. Their research is published today in Frontiers in Medicine.
Like the pharaoh Tutankhamun, the recently studied mummy was a male of high socioeconomic standing who died young—around 14 or 15 years old, by the researchers’ measure. He was about 4 feet, 2 inches tall.
The boy’s social class was deduced from his ornate burial—the team refers to the remains as the “Golden boy mummy” for its gilded face mask.
Under the mummy’s wrappings, the researchers found more evidence of wealth: 21 different shapes of amulets, 30 of which were made of gold. The amulets were intentionally placed at specific places on the body; a gold tongue amulet was in the mummy’s mouth, which the researchers believe was done to allow the boy to speak in the afterlife. A two-finger amulet was placed next to the boy’s penis, which the researchers believe was to cover up an embalming incision.
“This mummy’s body was extensively decorated with 49 amulets, beautifully stylized in a unique arrangement of three columns between the folds of the wrappings and inside the mummy’s body cavity,” said Sahar Saleem, a researcher at Cairo University and the study’s lead author, in a Frontiers release. “Their purpose was to protect the body and give it vitality in the afterlife.”
In an email to Gizmodo, Saleem said that the team could not determine a cause of death, and from what they could tell, the boy was in good health. Since the internal organs were removed during the mummification process, Saleem added that signs of disease may have been in the long-gone viscera.
Thanks to CT scanning, researchers are getting a better view of ancient mummies than ever before, without needing to open or damage the artifacts. Click through for more images of the “Golden boy mummy.”
The Ptolemaic era outer coffin of the boy bears painted details, inscriptions in Greek letters, and hieroglyphics.
The mummy inside, belonging to a boy of about 15 years old. The researchers believe he was wealthy, given the number of gold artifacts associated with the body. The mummy is garlanded with ferns.
The mummy seen in profile revealed amulets both concealed in the wrappings and within the body itself. The back of the boy’s head is filled with a now-solidified resin.
The CT scans also revealed sandals on the mummy’s feet, likely made of papyrus or palm fibers. “The sandals were probably meant to enable the boy to walk out of the coffin,” Saleem said in a Frontiers release. “According to the ancient Egyptians’ ritual Book of The Dead, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and clean before reciting its verses.”
The team was partly able to age the boy based on the fact that his wisdom teeth had not yet erupted. He showed no signs of periodontal disease and had a slight overbite.
A scan of the mummy’s midriff revealed a scarab amulet about 1.5 inches across. There are also smaller amulets higher in the chest cavity, and a structureless resin in the lower torso, as well as loose linen. The heart was not removed, and as indicated by the long straight arrow.
An oval scarab amulet inside the mummy.
A CT scan reveals an assortment of amulets contained in the mummy’s wrappings. One (follow the arrow) was placed beside the mummy’s penis.
The mummy’s face, as seen by a CT scan. He was about 15 when he died.