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Researchers in Egypt discovered a heart of gold and several other treasures in a boy who was mummified 2,300 years ago.
The young man’s body, estimated to have died when he was between 14 and 15 years old, was found in 1916. However, the remains remained stored for more than a century, along with dozens of others, in the deposits of the Cairo Egyptian Museum, without having been closely examined by experts.
That changed when a team led by Sahar Saleem of Cairo University decided to check the mummy using a CT scanner.
The images obtained revealed that the body had 49 amulets of 21 different types, many of them made of gold. Therefore, the mummy was baptized as the “golden boy”, announced Saleem in an article published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.
The discovery earned the mummy a room at the Egyptian Museum, where it will be displayed.
The tests made it possible to determine that the young man was from the upper class, as “he had healthy bones and teeth, with no signs of malnutrition or illness”.
His remains underwent a “high-quality mummification process, which included the removal of the brain and viscera”.
The images showed that under the shrouds that covered the young man’s body there was an object next to the penis, a golden tongue inside the mouth and a heart-shaped object, also made of gold, below the thoracic cavity.
Saleem recalled that ancient Egyptians placed amulets on the corpses of their dead in order to “protect and give vitality” to them in the afterlife.
“The golden tongue inside the mouth sought to ensure that the deceased could speak in the afterlife,” explained the expert.
The images also showed that the young man’s body was dressed in sandals and decorated with fern garlands.
The mummy — believed to be from the late Ptolemaic period (c. 332-30 BC) — was found in Edfu, in southern Egypt, in 1916. Six years before that, an expedition led by Britain’s Howard Carter had found Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
The boy’s remains were protected by two sarcophagi. On the outside was an inscription in Greek. The interior was made of wood. The corpse had a golden mask on its head.
Saleem believes his discovery is just the beginning of more to come.
“Egypt underwent extensive excavations in the 19th and early 20th centuries that resulted in the discovery of thousands of preserved ancient bodies, many still wrapped and inside their coffins,” she says.
“Since its opening in 1835, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo has served as a repository for these finds and its basement is filled with many of these mummies that have been locked up for decades without being studied or displayed.”
In the past, bandages were removed from mummies and the bodies were subjected to invasive dissection for research and entertainment purposes, says the researcher.
But now, computed tomography could be a great tool to search many of these remains without damaging them, something that will allow us to delve “more into the health, beliefs and abilities of humans in antiquity.”
“Computed tomography represents a significant advance in radiology. Instead of using a single image, hundreds of projections of thin sections (sections) of the body can be combined to create a complete three-dimensional model”, concluded the specialist.