This week let’s move to the Third Intermediate Period mummy which is now located in Boston, Massachusetts. Let’s meet Tabes!
Tabes lived during the 22nd Dynasty in the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt, approximately 945 to 818 B.C.E. She and her husband Nesptah lived in Thebes in Upper Egypt. Nesptah has a job as a barber, shaving the heads of the temple priests. Tabes had a job in the temple choir.
It is not known when the mummy left Egypt, but somehow Tabes’ mummy stayed with her husband’s mummy! This is an extremely unique case, which helps us learn about mummification practices within a family. Nesptah is mummified a little bit differently, possibly indicating that when he died, mummification practices had changed.
The mummies were in the possession of Robert Hay, who lived in Limplum, Scotland in 1836. He then sold both mummies to Samuel A. Way in Boston in 1868. After making the trip across the ocean, Tabes and Nesptah’s mummies were donated by Samuel’s son to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1872. Tabes’ museum number is 72.4820c.
During the 22nd dynasty, mummy cases were made out of cartonnage which is like paper mache. First, a core of mud and straw is made in the shape of a mummy. This was then covered in plaster and layers of linen pasted with plant gum. The crafters would leave a hole at the bottom and a slit up the back of the case. The surface was covered with gesso to make it stiff and then the core was removed. The completed mummy was inserted within the stiff core. The back was then sewn up and the foot end plugged with a wooden board.
The final step was for the painters to decorate the case. Tabes’ case is decorated with protective winged deities. Six pairs of wings are wrapped around her stomach, including a falcon with a ram head. There are also pairs of winged goddesses such as Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Selqet.
Because of the beauty and fragility of the mummy case, Tabes has never been unwrapped. So all examinations of the mummy have to be non-invasive.
Between 1983 and 1987, 15 mummies from the MFA Boston were examined at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. CT images were taken of Tabes’ mummy to learn more about her body.
Tabes died in her early 30s (which is interesting because her husband Nesptah died in his 60s). There were no signs of major illness, but she did suffer from dental disease, which was very common for an Egyptian mummy.
The images show a bulge on her neck, which may be due to the packing material. Tabes’ eyes were untreated and shrunk within the sockets. Her nose was slightly crushed because of the cartonnage. Her ears were intact, but her hair had been matted down with resin. You can even see a large embalmer’s incision on her left side.
The CT scans also showed that a metal amulet was placed on her sternum. Another heart scarab with a winged amulet was placed over her ribs.
Image of the mummy – MFA Museum
CT scans – Marx and D’Auria article