Mummy Monday: Nebiri

This week’s mummy is unfortunately not completely intact. But that hasn’t stopped researchers from learning a ton about this Egyptian. His name was Nebiri and he is currently located at the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy (S_5109).

Life

Very little is known about Nebiri in his life because his tomb was looted. But, based on the location he was buried, he was most likely an important official during his life. He most likely lived in the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom, during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III, 1479 to 1424 B.C.E.

The only title that we know he had was Chief or Superintendent of the Stables, meaning that he was in charge of the horse stables, possibly those of the kings. He was anywhere from 45 to 60 years old when he died.

Tomb

Image of all the tombs in the Valley of the Queens. Nebiri was buried in QV30, seen here on the bottom middle of the image.

Nebiri’s tomb was located in the Valley of the Queens. This was another valley located on the west side of the Nile from Thebes. Like the Valley of the Kings, this valley was used from the late 17th dynasty and on to bury those of the royal family. While it is labeled as for queens, there are several non-queens were buried in this valley, Nebiri included.

A view of the South east side of the Valley of the Queens, with the tomb of Nebiri (QV30) in the center

He was buried in QV30, which is located on the south slope of the main valley. It is a single rectangular shaped chamber with a vertical shaped shaft. Like many of the tombs of both of the valleys, it was looted in antiquity. This tomb was hit particularly hard as Nebiri’s body was either taken or destroyed. The only things left in the tomb were some faience objects, terracotta vases, some Aegean style (probably Cypriote) vessels (seen below), a canopic jar inscribed for the god Hapy, the guardian of the lungs, and the head of Nebiri.

The tomb was discovered by Italian Egyptologist Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1904. The objects were then sent to the Egyptian Museum in Turin. In a recent survey of the Valley of the Queens by the Getty Conservation Institute, the tomb had evidence of reuse in the Roman Period and modern flooding. Currently, the tomb shaft has a modern cemented masonry surround.

To read more about the Getty’s work in the Valley of the Queens check out the two files below!

Mummy

As I mentioned, only the head of Nebiri was left in the tomb. It was left almost completely unwrapped but is still in good condition. Luckily, the canopic jar that remained in the tomb, contained the lungs of Nebiri.

Linen bandages were stuffed into the head, nose, ears, eyes, and mouth. They also included packing in the mouth to fill out the cheeks. Researchers discovered that the linen bandages had been treated with a complex mixture of animal fat or plant oil, a balsam or aromatic plant, a coniferous resin, and heated Pistacia resin.

CT scans of Nebiri’s head, showing some of the linen bandages packed in the skull
3D reconstruction of Nebiri’s brain surface from the CT scans

During a CT scan of the head, a tiny hole was found in the honeycomb-like bone structure, known as the cribriform plate. This piece separates the nasal cavity from the brain. Although the brain was usually removed in the mummification process, Nebiri’s brain was not removed. This hole was actually used to insert the packing rather than taking the brain out. Researchers were able to 3D reconstruct the brain surface. These mummification techniques seem to confirm that Nebiri was a high-status figure of the 18th dynasty.

Using a type of computed tomography and facial reconstruction techniques, researchers have produced a facial approximation of Nebiri. He had a prominent nose, wide jaw, straight eyebrows, and thick lips. Check out the article below to learn more about the “Virtopsy” that was conducted on Nebiri’s head.

Medical Marvel

Researchers at the Turin Museum have discovered a few medical problems that Nebiri had before he died. Like many Egyptians, Nebiri had very bad teeth. He has several periodontal or gum disease and abscesses in his mouth.

Then by examining the remains of Nebiri’s lungs from the canopic jar, they found evidence of edema or fluid collected in the lung’s air sacs. One of the researchers Bianucci explained, “when the heart is not able to pump efficiently, blood can back up into the veins that take it through the lungs. As the pressure increases, fluid is pushed into the air spaces in the lungs.”

There was also calcification in the right internal carotid artery, suggesting mild atherosclerosis. Cells were also found within the lung tissue also resembled cells that have been found in patients with heart failure. Scholars concluded that Nebiri had chronic heart failure and may have died from acute decompensation of chronic left-side heart failure. This is the earliest found case of chronic heart failure found!

Sources

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Neibiri

https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ancient-egyptian-mummy-nebiri-oldest-case-chronic-heart-failure-1517644

https://www.livescience.com/59530-egyptian-mummy-face-and-brain-reconstructed.html

https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/researchers-identify-oldest-known-case-heart-failure-egyptian-mummy-003701

Valley of the Queens Assessment Book

Virtopsy article

Photo Sources

Head and canopic jar – Mummipedia

Facial reconstruction and scans of the head – Philippe Froesch va livescience.com

Reconstruction and CT scan – https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4618596/Scientists-reconstruct-head-ancient-mummy.html

Side view of reconstruction – http://khentiamentiu.blogspot.com/2017/06/face-of-ancient-dignitary-shows-how.html

CT scans and reconstructions – Loynes et al “Virtopsy shows a high status funerary treatment in an early 18th Dynasty non-royal individual”

Head – https://www.ancientpages.com/2015/08/28/nebiri-a-chief-of-stables-oldest-case-of-heart-disease-found-in-3500-year-old-mummy/

Images of Tomb – Getty Valley of the Queens PDF

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