A mummified teenager with a heart of gold has been “digitally unwrapped” some 2,300 years after he was buried.
The undisturbed remains of the boy, who is believed to have been 14 or 15 when he died, have been examined by a CT scan, revealing the lengths his family went to in an attempt to ensure his safe passage to the afterlife.
The ancient Egyptians believed that when people die, their spirits take a perilous journey to the underworld, where their character will be judged.
To ensure a positive outcome, a place in the afterlife, this particular teenager was buried with 49 amulets – including a golden scarab where his heart would be and a golden tongue in his mouth.
The mummy dates back to the Ptolemaic period, when Egypt was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty.
It was found in a cemetery that was used between 332 and 30 BC at Nag el Hasay in southern Egypt during World War I, but was left unexamined until now in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Thanks to the findings of a new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, the mummy has been moved to the main exhibition hall, nicknamed “The Golden Boy”.
How was the boy buried?
Not only was the mummy adorned with 49 amulets, reflecting his high-class status, but he also wore a gilded mask, chest card on his torso, and a pair of sandals.
“The sandals were probably meant to allow the boy to get out of the coffin,” said Dr. Sahar Salim, professor of medicine at Cairo University and lead author of the study.
“According to the ritualistic Book of the Dead of the ancient Egyptians, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and pure before reciting its verses.
The mummy was placed in two coffins – the inner one was made of wood, while the outer one had a Greek inscription.
It was surrounded by ferns, as was the ancient Egyptian tradition.
Dr Salim said: “The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by plants and flowers and believed they possessed sacred and symbolic effects.
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In addition to having his heart removed, the boy’s brain was removed through his nose.
But it was replaced with resin, not anything gold.
His teeth, however, were in good condition, with no signs of disease or decay.
Investigators could not identify a cause of death other than natural causes.