Scientists unwrap Egyptian mummy to find 3500-year-old king still has good teeth, narrow chin

Mummified remains of kings, royals, priests from Egypt have always been a source of intrigue for people across the world, giving an insight into this extinct civilisation.

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Scientists have now, for the first time since the 11th century BC, unwrapped a mummy, this time virtually.

Scientists have unwrapped pharaoh Amenhotep I, who ruled between 1525 to 1504 BC, digitally using CT scans. His is the only royal mummy to remain unopened in modern times. The scans reveal that the royal was 35 years old, 169 cm tall, circumcised, and in good physical health when he died. His death, likely from natural causes.

In a study published in the Frontiers in Medicine, researchers peered into the physical appearance, health, cause of death, and mummification style of the royal. They examined the mummy with CT and generated two- and three-dimensional images for the head mask, bandages, and the virtually unwrapped mummy.


Digitally unwrapping the royal mummy, scientists found that he seems to have physically resembled his father with a narrow chin, a small narrow nose, curly hair, and mildly protruding upper teeth. Scientists said that they could not 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. His entrails had been removed by the first mummifies, but not his brain or heart.

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Dr Sahar Saleem, professor of radiology at Cairo University, lead author of the study said, “This fact that Amenhotep I’s mummy had never been unwrapped in modern times gave us a unique opportunity: not just to study how he had originally been mummified and buried, but also how he had been treated and reburied twice, centuries after his death, by High Priests of Amun.


The second king of the 18th Dynasty to ascend the throne after the death of his father Ahmose I, Amenhotep I ruled Egypt for about 21 years. Egyptologists believe that Amenhotep I may have co-reigned with his mother Ahmose-Nefertari. His name means: “Amun is satisfied”. During his rule, Amenhotep I governed the territories of Egypt, led a campaign to Kush and an expedition to Libya.

The outer mummy of Amenhotep I. (Photo: S. Saleem and Z. Hawass)

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The mummy of Amenhotep I was discovered in 1881 at Deir el-Bahari Royal Cache in Luxor, where the officials of the 21st Dynasty hid the mummies of several New Kingdom kings and nobles to protect them from tomb robbers.

Egyptian mummies have always been related to mythical beliefs and thanks to Hollywood extravaganzas, they have been immortalised as creatures possessing mythical powers. However, such is not the case. Researchers said that Egyptologists have never been bold enough to open the mummy of pharaoh Amenhotep I, however, not because of any mythical cause.

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Researchers said that the unwrapping never happened because it is perfectly wrapped, decorated with beautiful flower garlands, and with face and neck covered by an exquisite lifelike mask inset with colourful stones.

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