Mummy of Amenhotep I

The Mummy of Amenhotep I was originally buried at Dra’ Abu el-Naga’. During the 21st Dynasty, the mummy, which was in poor condition, was moved to the Deir el-Bahari Royal Cachette (DB320). The mummy was carefully wrapped in bandages and covered with a mask, which is still in place together with garlands of flowers.

An X-ray shows that king Amenhotep I apparently died in his late forties and was perhaps 1.79 meters, or about 5 feet 10 inches, tall. The mummy’s hands, although broken off, were crossed over his chest, a posture traditionally used by all of his successors.

Mummy of King Amenhotep I
Coffin and Mummy of King Amenhotep I. Photo: Patrick Landmann

Amenhotep I, was the son of Ahmose I (founder of the 18th Dynasty, after unifying Egypt once more), and his sister-wife Ahmose Nefertari.

The mummy of Amenhotep I is unique and features one of the most exquisite and well-preserved face masks of any royal Egyptian mummy. Since the face mask is so delicate and beautiful, Amenhotep I is the only royal mummy who has not been unwrapped and studied by modern Egyptologists.

Amenhotep I was the second King of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. He ruled from about 1526 BC until his death in 1506 BC. Amenhotep I’s mummy was moved from its original resting place to the Deir el-Bahari Cachette (DB320) and hidden with other royal mummies from Egypt’s New Kingdom time period.

Although no cause of death could be determined, the scan of the mummy of Amenhotep I, revealed his death to be around 35 years of age, this conclusion came to be due to “the closure of epiphyses of all the long bones, as well as on the morphology of the surface of the symphysis pubis”.

Coffin of Amenhotep I
Coffin and mummy of Amenhotep I. Photo by Emile Brugsch, 1881

This is not too far from the age predicted by Douglas Derry, professor at the Kasr Al Ainy School of Medicine in Cairo, who X-Rayed the body of the king in 1932 and estimated the king to have died between 40 and 50. Rather remarkably, scans showed the king has a full set of healthy teeth.

Amenhotep I’s body was remummified sometime during the 21st Dynasty, due to the repositioning of the royal mummies into the protective cache at Deir el-Bahari to prevent ancient tomb robberies. This scan showcases that the ancient priests remummifying the body of the king reconnected his head back to his body, among other bodily repairs (broken bones) which likely occurred due to ancient tomb robbers.

Computed tomography (non-invasive) scan of the mummy of King Amenhotep I
Computed tomography (non-invasive) scan of the mummy of King Amenhotep I. Photograph courtesy of S. Saleem and Z. Hawass

Despite the robberies, these non-intrusive scans tell us that varied amulets and jewellery were bestowed upon the king in death. 30 different pieces all together; including an amulet by his heart, two golden Eye of Horus (Wadjet) on his upper and lower right arm, accompanied by a quartz scarab and notably a belly chain or girdle around his waist. Sources: Department of Radiology, Kasr Al Ainy Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University.

Amenhotep I’s mummy, which was found in 1881, is one of very few known royal mummies that have not been unwrapped in modern times. During the Victorian era, wealthy patrons threw many exclusive mummy unwrapping parties.

“The mummy was never unwrapped because scholars at the time thought it was too beautiful to destroy,” says radiologist Sahar Saleem of Cairo University, who led the project. Using noninvasive CT scanning, Saleem has generated 3-D images of the pharaoh’s mask, bandages, body, and face.

“Folding the arms on the chest became characteristic of royal mummies to make them resemble Osiris, god of the afterlife,” Saleem says. “Amenhotep I’s mummy is the first example of this style of mummification, which later became standard for all ancient Egyptian mummies.”

New Kingdom, early 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep I, ca. 1525-1504 BC. Now in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), Cairo. JE 26211

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