Egyptian mummy of pharoah Amenhotep I digitally ‘unwrapped’ for first time

Researchers discovered more details about Amenhotep I after seeing the ruler's body for the first time - all while keeping the beautiful wrapping intact. Credit: PA

The mummy of ancient Egyptian pharoah Amenhotep I has been seen for the first time in centuries after being digitally “unwrapped” with high-tech scanners.

Researchers were previously unwilling to uncover the ancient ruler’s body because of its beautifully decorated wrapping with flower garlands and exquisite life-like facemask inset with colourful stones.

But three-dimensional computer topography (CT) scanning technology meant they were able to see the body for the first time and uncover more details about the ruler's appearance and the lavish, unique jewellery he was buried with.

A three-dimensional CT scan of Pharaoh Amenhotep I Credit: Sahar Saleem and Zahi Hawass/PA

The mummy had been unwrapped once in the 11th century BCE – more than four centuries after his original mummification and burial. Egyptologists knew this from decoded hieroglyphics.

Experts thought the priests who restored and reburied him did so to repair damage done by grave robbers and to reuse royal burial equipment for later pharaohs.

However, the latest findings debunked those theories - according to Dr Sahar Saleem, professor of radiology at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University and the radiologist of the Egyptian Mummy Project, and first author of the study – published in Frontiers in Medicine.

A three-dimensional CT scan of Pharaoh Amenhotep I Credit: Sahar Saleem and Zahi Hawass/PA

She said: “This fact that Amenhotep I’s mummy had never been unwrapped in modern times gave us a unique opportunity: not just to study how he had originally been mummified and buried, but also how he had been treated and reburied twice, centuries after his death, by High Priests of Amun.

“By digitally unwrapping of the mummy and ‘peeling off’ its virtual layers – the facemask, the bandages, and the mummy itself – we could study this well-preserved pharaoh in unprecedented detail.

“We show that Amenhotep I was approximately 35 years old when he died. He was approximately 169cm tall, circumcised, and had good teeth. Within his wrappings, he wore 30 amulets and a unique golden girdle with gold beads.

“Amenhotep I seems to have physically resembled his father: he had a narrow chin, a small narrow nose, curly hair, and mildly protruding upper teeth.”

Reconstructed image of a golden beaded girdle with a snail amulet worn by Amenhotep I beneath the wrappings only revealed clearly by CT scan Credit: Sahar Saleem and Zahi Hawass/PA

Amenhotep, whose name means “Amun is satisfied” – in reference to the ancient Egyptian god of the air, Amun – ruled from approximately 1525 to 1504 BCE.

He was the second pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th dynasty after his father Ahmose I expelled the invading Hyksos and reunited Egypt.

He oversaw a golden age and he and his mother Ahmose-Nefertari were worshipped as gods after his death.

His mummy was first discovered in 1881 at an archaeological site in Deir el Bahari in southern Egypt.

Dr Saleem said: “We couldn’t find any wounds or disfigurement due to disease to justify the cause of death, except numerous mutilations post mortem, presumably by grave robbers after his first burial. His entrails had been removed by the first mummifiers, but not his brain or heart.

“We show that at least for Amenhotep I, the priests of the 21 dynasty lovingly repaired the injuries inflicted by the tomb robbers, restored his mummy to its former glory, and preserved the magnificent jewellery and amulets in place.”