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High-tech scanners ‘unwrapped’ a mummified Egyptian pharaoh, revealing a seemingly healthy 35-year-old with no clues for how he died

Royal mummy of Amenhotep I in April 2006, at the Cairo Museum, Egypt.

Patrick Landmann/Getty Images

  • The 3,500-year-old mummy of Amenhotep I was digitally uncovered for the first time.
  • It revealed that he appeared healthy when he died around 35, with no apparent cause of death.
  • The mummy is so delicately and ornately wrapped that scientists had been scared to disturb it.

Scientists “digitally unwrapped” a 3,500-year-old mummy, revealing secrets that had eluded scientists for centuries. 

Experts at Cairo University used 3D CT scanners, which create an image of what is under layers of clothing and event skin.

It provided a look at the body of Amenhotep I “in unprecedented detail,” Dr Sahar Saleem, a professor of radiology and lead author of of a study on the mummy, said in a press release.

A picture shows a cross section of Amenhotep's mummy inside his face insetThe pharaoh’s mummy, shown behind his facemask within the bandages.

S. Saleem and Z. Nuwass

Amenhotep I’s body had lain undisturbed since its discovery in 1888 at the archeological site Deir el Bahari in the Nile.

Most royal mummies discovered in the 19th and 20th centuries have long been unwrapped, per the press release.

But because Amenhotep I’s remains were so perfectly wrapped, adorned with flower garlands and a delicate facemask inset with colorful stones, scientists decided not to disturb it.

a black and white sketch of Amenhotep's sarcophagus is pictured opened to reveal the wrapped body inside.Historical engraving from 1888.

bildagentur-online/uig via Getty images

Using the new scanners, the scientists found that Amenhotep was about 35 when he died.

He was approximately 169cm tall, circumcised, had a narrow chin, a small narrow nose, curly hair, and mildly protruding upper teeth, said Saleem. 

Within his wrappings, he wore “30 amulets and a unique golden girdle with gold beads,” said Saleem.

A picture shows the pharoah's skull shown by CT tomography inside its bandages.The Pharaoh’s skull, including his teeth in good condition.

S. Saleem and Z. Hawass

Amenhotep I was seemingly healthy when he died, with no apparent injuries, she 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,” she said. 

The mystery as to how Amenhotep I died remains, per the press release.

The face mask of Amenhotep's remains is pictured here.Facemask of the mummy of pharaoh Amenhotep I.

S. Saleem and Z. Hawass

Amenhotep was the second pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th dynasty. He ruled for about 21 years around 1525 BC.

After his death, his mother and he were worshipped as gods, per the press release. 

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