This content is not available in your region

Mummified face of 3000-year-old pharaoh Amenhotep I unwrapped using state-of-the-art technology

euronews_icons_loading
CT scan and X-ray images show inside the wrappings of Pharaoh Amenhotep's mummy
CT scan and X-ray images show inside the wrappings of Pharaoh Amenhotep's mummy   -   Copyright  AP Photo
By Marie Lecoq  & Josephine Joly and AP

The mummy of an Egyptian pharaoh has given up some of its secrets at last.

Using state-of-the-art technology, scientists have been able to uncover what has been hidden under the mummy's wrappings and mask for over three thousand years.

The remains of Pharaoh Amenhotep I, who ruled Egypt approximately between 1525-1504 BC, were discovered in 1881 in Deir Al Bahari in southern Egypt.

They had remained unwrapped until Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and Cairo University professor Sahar Saleem launched an in-depth study.

Hawass said the findings are a "major important discovery" and it shows for the first time "that technology can make discoveries without disturbing the mummy".

The scientists used advanced X-ray technology, computed tomography (CT) scans, and digital software to map out the mummy in great detail.

"It is a very informative, safe way to reveal information from the mummies without destroying them or without harming them," said Saleem in an interview with Euronews.

Digitally removing the wrappings

Unwrapping a mummy would expose it to our environment and potentially destroy it, Saleem explained, making the use of advanced technologies imperative.

"Once the wrapped mummy is disturbed by unwrapping, it has the potential to be harmed because it had this environment inside the wrapping for millennia," she added.

The technique allowed them to respect this "very important heritage," she said.

"He is also a human being, he was a king, and the respect of a mummy as a person is very important ethically in our science," Saleem added.

Using the thousands of images taken by the X-ray and CT scans, Saleem was able to process them using software to create 2D and 3D models, which enabled the team to digitally remove the mask and all the layers around the king’s remains and finally look at his face.

"It was an amazing moment to look at the face of the king and see that he has an oval face with a narrow chin and even a little bit of an overbite," said Saleem.

The non-invasive research enabled the scientists to learn that the Pharaoh died aged 35, that he was "a healthy man and had beautiful good teeth".

They also discovered that the king was wearing 30 amulets between the wrappings and inside the body, as well as a belt covered with golden beads.

The team also learned that the king was the first ruler from ancient Egypt to use the royal mummification style and be embalmed with his forearms crossed in the so-called Osiris position, which was then followed by other kings.

So far the team has carried out CT scans on 40 royal mummies and plans to continue the work on other royal mummies as well as common people from the period.

Video editor • Marie Lecoq