Nesperennub's snake amulet

© Photographic imagery courtesy of SGI

Place stone or glass eyes onto the corpseCobra amulet above right eye

One of the most intriguing features revealed by the 3D images of Nesperennub is a small object in the shape of a snake, which lies just above the right eye. It takes the form of the cobra, the hieroglyphic sign for the sound 'dj'. The object does not show up on conventional X-rays and seems to be made of a substance of relatively low density; wax is a possibility, since this was believed by the Egyptians to have magical properties and was used to fashion objects and figurines that were placed on the mummy.

Amulets in this shape are rare, but one made of gold was found in the sarcophagus of Prince Hornakht (about 850 BC) at Tanis, and another has been detected by X-rays over the right eye of a mummy dating to the Late Period (661-332 BC) in the Leiden Museum. Because these snake-amulets are so rare, their precise significance is unknown. Their positioning on the forehead might suggest some connection with the uraeus serpent - this protective cobra goddess regularly adorned the headdress of the king, but occasionally appeared on mummies and masks of private individuals.

The computer technology that has revealed Nesperennub's snake amulet has allowed us to view his body and other treasures without causing any damage to his mummy. As the technology is applied to other remains, we can hope to learn a lot more about life and death in ancient Egypt.