When most people hear the word mummy, they think of bandages and curses. However, mummies are so much more than that. Many of us have heard stories about King Tutankhamun’s curse or the pyramids’ hidden chambers. Did you know there is much more to these preserved corpses than just outlandish theories? These mummies in Egypt have plenty to tell us about the ancient Egyptians who mummified them. The mummification alone gives insight into their culture and way of life. Between April and October 2018, scientists from the University of Basel, Egypt, and the Natural History Museum Zurich analyzed a 3,200-year-old ancient Egyptian mummy from the New Kingdom period for their research on mummies.
From analyzing blood residues to recovering DNA,
here are some fascinating facts about the ancient mummy of Amenhotep.
To begin our discussion, we must first discuss the preservation of Amenhotep’s mummy. While we are often quick to associate mummies with Egypt, the practice of human preservation dates back millennia. In fact, the earliest mummies ever found were preserved without the use of any chemicals such as the ones used in Egyptian mummification.
Instead, the arid desert climate of many ancient cultures facilitated the natural desiccation of corpses. In the case of Amenhotep mummy, it was found in a desert cave near an oasis in Southern Egypt. As such, it was naturally preserved by the arid desert climate.
Cause of death
Amenhotep’s mummy was preserved when Egyptian society and culture were at their height. As such, it is not surprising that the cause of death of this individual is uncertain. While it is likely that the individual died from a bacterial infection as many people of the time did. It is not possible to confirm this.
The sex of the individual is possible to confirm using a sophisticated scan. This scan can essence of biologically inactive X and Y chromosomes in blood residues. X and Y chromosomes are found in all mammalian blood cells, with the X chromosome predominating in females and the Y chromosome in males.
This scan reveals that the individual was male. He likely died from a bacterial infection of the blood. A skeleton analysis may also show signs of disease in the individual’s bones.
Gender and age of ancient Egyptian mummy-Amenhotep
In addition to determining the cause of death, scientists were also able to decide on the gender and age of the individual. It is only possible to tell if the individual was a king or a commoner. The analysis does reveal that the individual was a male, probably between the ages of 18 and 22.
While this is certainly interesting, determining the age of mummies is an inexact science that relies on assumptions. Traditionally, mummies have been divided into two categories: child and adult.
This division is based on the belief that an individual’s growth is complete by age 16. Based on this assumption, this mummy is categorized as an adult. However, new research suggests that the development of individuals continues until the age of 22.
Hair and eye color
Analyzing the Amenhotep mummy’s hair reveals that the individual was likely a redhead. The hair analysis shows that this individual had brown hair that turned red with age. While this is interesting, it is impossible to determine the individual’s eye color from this data. Instead, eye color is determined by the amount of melanin in the iris.
While melanin is present in all human irises, its amount can vary. It is impossible to determine the amount of melanin in the individual’s eye using their hair.
Tattoos and markings
Many people are surprised to discover that mummies have tattoos, but they do. At the same time, tattoos were practiced in many ancient cultures. They were applied to the skin using blue-black ink made from soot, which is highly corrosive. As such, it is unsurprising that very few tattoos survive the centuries.
In this mummy’s case, scientists could identify a crude tattoo on one of the mummy’s arms. The tattoo was most likely applied between the elbow and wrist to serve as a primitive form of acupuncture.
This ancient mummy of Egypt is an excellent example of the many incredible discoveries. While many people quickly believe outlandish theories about mummies in Egypt, the truth is much more fascinating.
From determining an individual’s ancient gender and age to discovering the crude tattoos that adorn their skin, mummies can reveal a lot about the past if we are willing to look.