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Pharaoh unwrapped

Archaeologists digitally unwrap Amenhotep I. Check out his teeth.

Pharaoh Amenhotep I (‘Amun is satisfied’) was the second ruler of Egypt’s XVIII Dynasty. His father Ahmose I, had reunited Egypt and ejected the Hyksos invaders who had settled in the Nile Delta around 1640 BC. Amenhotep ascended the throne in 1525 and reigned for 21 years. He led successful campaigns in Nubia (northern Sudan) and Libya, while embarking on ambitious temple construction in Upper Egypt. His domains prospered to such an extent that he was deified on his death, as was his mother, who survived him.

His original tomb was either robbed or thought to be unsafe, so his body was moved, probably several times. His mummy ended up in the Deir el-Bahari cache of forty rulers and other notables. All the royal mummies from the cache, discovered in 1881, were opened and studied in the 19th and 20th centuries, with one exception – Amenhotep I.

The mummy was perfectly wrapped, decorated with flower garlands, the lifelike face mask inset with semi-precious stones. Amenhotep’s body has been X-rayed twice. But now radiologist at Cairo University Professor Sahar Saleem and Egyptologist Dr Zahi Hawass, have used CT imaging to digitally 'unwrap' the body without disturbing the mask, the ornaments and bandages, or the mummy itself. The body was well-preserved, revealing that the pharaoh was about 35 years old when he died. He was about 169cm tall, had excellent teeth, and had been circumcised. His appearance resembled that of his father – a small, narrow nose, curly hair, and a narrow chin. His upper teeth protruded slightly.

The cause of his death remains a mystery, for no wounds or traces of disease survived. His brain and heart remained in the body. The embalmers had removed his entrails. Fortunately, the priests of Amun had repaired some of the damage wrought by earlier tomb robbers, and preserved thirty amulets and a golden girdle with gold beads, presumably of symbolic importance.

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Left: CT scan of skull of Amenhotep I. Right: The pharaoh's mummy, showing his skull and skeleton within the bandages. Credit: S. Saleem and Z. Nuwass

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