A mummified teenager with a heart of gold has been “digitally unwrapped” around 2,300 years after he was buried.
The intact remains of the boy, estimated to be 14 or 15 years old when he died, have been examined by CT scan, revealing the efforts his family has made to try to ensure his safe passage to the afterlife.
The ancient Egyptians believed that when people died, their spirits took a dangerous journey into the underworld, where their character would be judged.
To ensure a successful outcome, a place in the afterlife, this particular teenager was buried with 49 amulets – including a golden scarab where his heart would have been and a golden tongue in his mouth.
The mummy dates back to the Ptolemaic period, when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of the same name.
It was found in a cemetery used between about 332 and 30 BC at Nag el-Hassay in southern Egypt during World War I, but was not examined in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. so far.
Thanks to the results of the new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, the mummy has been moved to the main exhibition hall under the nickname “Golden boy”.
How was the boy buried?
Not only was the mummy decorated with 49 amulets, reflecting his high-class status, but he also wore a golden mask, pectoral cartonnage on his torso, and a pair of sandals.
“The sandals were probably meant to get the boy out of the coffin,” said Dr Sahar Saleem, professor of medicine at Cairo University and lead author of the study.
“According to the ritual book of the ancient Egyptians of the dead, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and clean before reciting his verses.”
The mummy was placed inside two coffins – the wooden interior, while the exterior bore a Greek inscription.
It was surrounded by ferns, as was an ancient Egyptian tradition.
Dr Saleem said: “The ancient Egyptians were fascinated with plants and flowers and believed they possessed sacred and symbolic effects.”
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In addition to having his heart removed, the boy had his brain removed through his nose.
But it was replaced with resin rather than something gold.
His teeth were in good condition, however, with no signs of disease or decay.
Researchers were unable to identify a cause of death beyond natural causes.