Scientists virtually unwrap mummified remains of Egypt’s ‘golden boy’ using CT scans

The mummified remains of an individual from Ancient Egypt
The mummified remains of an individual from Ancient Egypt, Credit:Wikimedia/Alyssa Bivins

Recently, scientists unwrapped the mummified remains of a teenage boy buried 2,300 years ago in ancient Egypt. The mummified remains of the teenage boy, known as Egypt’s “golden boy,” had remained a mystery for almost a century. By using computed tomography (CT) scans, scientists could virtually unwrap the mummified remains to reveal what was hidden inside.

The mummified remains of the golden boy were discovered in 1916 at a cemetery in Nag el-Hassay in southern Egypt. This cemetery was used by the ancient Egyptians to bury their dead from around 332 to 30 B.C., also known as the Ptolemaic period. Until now, the mummified remains were kept in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Through CT scans, scientists could determine the age of the boy as 14–15 years old. This was done by observing the degree of bone fusion and the absence of wisdom teeth. The remains of the golden boy were held inside two coffins—an outer and an inner coffin.

In the process of mummification, ancient Egyptians removed the organs of the dead and preserved them in jars. These jars were buried along with the mummified remains. Moisture was also removed for better preservation of the remains by using a salt called natron. This resulted in extremely dry, shrivelled bodies which were later stuffed with material, like linen. Finally, the bodies of the dead were wrapped with strips of linen.

According to scientists, a CT scan is an important method for allowing analysis without destroying the outer wrappings of mummified remains. This method does not invade or destroy the living or non-living object observed. A computed tomography scan may be used to capture the internal images of these objects. A CT scan makes use of X-rays released from an X-ray tube, and these are received by a row of detectors. The slight loss of the intensity of the X-rays after their interaction with certain objects is measured by the detectors in a CT scan.

This new finding has come to light just as many museums in the United Kingdom have considered that the word “mummy” will no longer be used to describe mummified remains. Rather, “mummified man, woman, boy, girl, or person” may be the words used for description.

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