The mummy of a ‘golden child’ rediscovered with nearly 50 amulets

The mummy of the now called ‘Golden Child’ was found in 1916 in a burial ground used approximately between 332 and 30 BC. C. at Nag el-Hassay, south of Egypt. Since then, it has been stored unexamined in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Recently, a team of Egyptian scientists used computed tomography (a kind of CT scan) to ‘digitally unwrap’ this mummy, dated to around 2,300 years old and belonging to a teenager of high socioeconomic status. The results, published in the journal Frontiers of Medicinereveal that the body has nearly 50 amulets of various types.

The mummy is deposited in two coffins, one outside with a Greek inscription and the other inside in wood. Inside is a golden head mask, a chest box that covers the front of the torso, and a pair of sandals. In addition to the heart, the viscera have already been removed through an incision in the groin, as well as the brain through the nose, to be later replaced by resin.

The wooden coffin, with colorful designs in the late Ptolemaic style (above) and the mummy ‘digitally unwrapped’ in four stages. /SN SALEEM

The ancient Egyptians believed that when we died, our spiritual body sought an afterlife similar to that of this world. But entry into this afterlife was not guaranteed: it first required a perilous journey through the underworld, followed by an individual final judgment. Therefore, relatives and embalmers did everything possible for their loved one to reach a happy destination.

This mummy’s body was decorated with 49 amulets, in a unique three-column arrangement between the folds of the casings and within the body cavity.

Sahar Saleem (University of Cairo)

“Here we show that the body of this mummy was decorated with 49 amulets, in a unique three-column arrangement between the folds of the casings and within the body cavity. These include the eye of Horus, the scarab, the akhet amulet, the Knot of Isis and others. Many were made of gold, others of semi-precious stones, baked clay or earthenware. Their objective was to protect the body and give it vitality in the afterlife”, explains Sahar Saleem, first author of the study and professor at Cairo University Faculty of Medicine.

No wisdom teeth coming out

Scans showed that the boy was 128 cm tall, uncircumcised and, despite being young, no cause of death other than natural has been identified. Based on the degree of bone fusion and the absence of wisdom teeth eruption, the authors estimate that the boy was between 14 and 15 years old. Her teeth were in good condition, with no evidence of decay, tooth loss or periodontal disease.

The mummy’s face on the CT scans and detail of her good teeth (with unerupted wisdom teeth). /SN SALEEM

As for amulets, they bear witness to a wide range of Egyptian beliefs. For example, the golden tongue blade is placed inside the mouth to ensure the child can speak in the afterlife, while a two-finger amulet is located next to the penis to protect the embalming incision. The knot of Isis invoked the power of this goddess to protect the body.

There is also a right-angled amulet, which provided balance and leveling, and double hawk and ostrich plumes which represented the duality of spiritual and material life.

Beetle to silence the heart

A golden beetle was located inside the chest cavity, which the researchers 3D printed a copy of.

Example of heart beetle and 3D impression of the gold beetle identified in the mummy’s chest cavity. /WLA brooklynmuseum/SN SALEEM

“The heart beetle is mentioned in chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead: it was important in the afterlife during the judgment of the deceased and the weighing of the heart against the feather of the goddess Maat. The heart beetle silenced the heart on Judgment Day , so that it would not testify against the deceased. It was placed inside the trunk cavity during mummification to replace the heart in case the body ran out of that organ”, details the researcher.

The heart beetle is mentioned in chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead: it was important in the afterlife during the judgment of the deceased and the weighing of the heart against the feather of the goddess Maat

Sahar Saleem (University of Cairo)

Furthermore, around the outer surface of the mummy was a wreath of ferns. “The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by plants and flowers and believed that they had sacred and symbolic effects. Bouquets of plants and flowers were placed next to the deceased at burial, and plants were also offered to the deceased at each visit to the dead. during burial . holidays,” says Saleem.

Sandals for walking to the afterlife

“And as for the sandals -he concludes-, they were probably used so that the child could get out of the coffin. According to the Egyptian ritual of the Book of the Dead, the deceased had to wear white sandals to be pious and clean before reciting its verses.”

3D CT image of the mummy’s sandal. / SN SALEEM et al./Frente. Med.

Faced with these exciting results, the management of the Egyptian Museum decided to move the mummy to the main exhibition hall under the nickname ‘Golden Child’. In its new location, visitors can admire the mummy alongside CT scans and a 3D printed version of the heart scarab amulet, to get as close as possible to the glories of ancient Egyptian civilization.

New discoveries: mummy covered in gold leaf

In addition to the publication on the child’s mummy, much more recent discoveries about ancient Egypt were released this month. An Egyptian excavation team reported the discovery of an intact sarcophagus containing a mummy covered in gold leaf.

It was found in a pit 15 meters deep in the area of ​​Gisr el Mudir, in the necropolis of Saqqara located south of Cairo.

An Egyptian archaeologist works after the announcement of new discoveries at Gisr el-Mudir in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt. / EFE/EPA/Mohamed Hossam ElDin

Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities published the news in its facebook profilewhere he explained that it is “a large rectangular limestone sarcophagus, belonging to a man called Heka-Shepes”.

The team also located another pit, about 10 meters deep, which contained a group of wooden statues and three stone statues representing a person called Fetek, next to these statues they discovered an offering table and a stone sarcophagus containing his mummy.

An intact sarcophagus with an Egyptian mummy covered in gold leaf was recently found inside a well.

The director of the excavation team working with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, highlighted that this is an important archaeological discovery dating from the 5th and 6th dynasties of the Ancient Kingdom, in addition to the discovery of numerous tombs.

As reported by Hawass, “The most important tomb belonged to Khnum-djed-ef, who was a priest in the pyramid complex of Unas; the second most important tomb belonged to Meri, another to a priest in the pyramid complex of King Pepi I , probably named Messi, which contained nine beautiful statues”.

In addition, the mission discovered several stone vases, tools for everyday life, statues of deities and ceramics, as well as numerous amulets, such as the ‘Golden Child’.

Statues discovered at Gisr el-Mudir in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt, where major archaeological discoveries dating to the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties of the Old Kingdom were announced in January. / EFE/EPA/Mohamed Hossam ElDin


Sahar Saleem et al. “Scanning and 3D printing using computed tomography (CT) of the ‘Golden boy’ mummy“. Frontiers in Medicine, 2023

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