Inside and on the body of the mummy of the “golden boy,” an Egyptian teenager who lived about 2,300 years ago, skilled Egyptian embalmers had deposited 49 precious amulets of 21 different types.
The team, led by Sahar Saleem, performed CT scans on the boy’s embalmed body, found in 1916 in a cemetery used between about 332 and 30 B.C. in Nag el-Hassay, southern Egypt. Ancient Egyptians believed that after the death of the body, the deceased would face a journey to the underworld, passing a test to prove the purity of their soul.
To help loved ones in this endeavor, the Egyptians buried the dead along with canopic jars, amulets and good luck charms. The young man analyzed in this survey, the authors report, belonged to a high social class. The 49 amulets buried with the mummified corpse had been carefully placed inside and on the body. Among the most curious objects, scholars describe a jewel lying next to the penis, a scarab placed inside the chest cavity, and a golden tongue.
Dressed in sandals and ferns, this boy represents a perfect example of Egyptian beliefs. “These findings,” the authors write, “provide unique insight into mummification procedures and beliefs about the importance of tomb ornaments during the Ptolemaic period. The amulets accompanying this mummy are arranged in three columns between the folds of the wrappings and within the mummy’s body cavity.”
The amulets accompanying this mummy are arranged in three columns between the folds of the wrappings and within the mummy’s body cavity.”
Scans revealed that the boy was 128 centimeters tall, had not been circumcised, and appears to have died of natural causes. From the degree of bone fusion and unerupted wisdom teeth, the authors estimate the young man was between 14 and 15 years old. “The Egyptians were fascinated by plants and flowers and believed they possessed sacred and symbolic effects,” Saleem continues, “the ‘golden boy’ was in fact buried with fern. Flowers and plants were also found in the tombs of pharaohs Amenhotep I and Ramesses the Great.”