This week let’s talk about a mummy housed at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor, Michigan! We do not know the name of this mummy, but he has been referred to as the Six-Fingered Boy.
Unfortunately, we know very little about this mummy. We know the mummy dates to the Roman Period, sometime during the 1st century B.C.E. The boy was probably 2 to 3 years old, though scholars thought he was a bit older at first. The mummy was carefully mummified and wrapped with dozens of layers of linen. The body was not in good condition when it was wrapped, indicating that the child died and wasn’t immediately buried.
This mummy is currently located at the Kelsey Museum at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan (1971.02.0179). Its original provenance (ie. where it was found in Egypt) is not known.
The mummy was donated to the Bay View Association in Bay View, Michigan in the late 1800s. It was donated by Miss Hattie M. Conner of Cairo, Egypt. Now in 1971, the Bay View Collection was obtained by the Kelsey Museum, and the mummy has been there ever since. This is unique because the majority of the Kelsey’s collection was obtained through their archaeological digs.
In 2002, an undergraduate engineering student proposed to get a CT scan of the mummy. He arranged the process with the Kelsey Museum and the University of Michigan Hospital where the scans took place. He even borrowed a minivan from a funeral home to transport the mummy to the hospital.
The mummy had been previously x-rayed when it was obtained by the Kelsey Museum, but this was the first time it would be CT scanned. The technicians were able to discover so much more about the mummification process. They even found a wooden framework which was probably what the mummy was tied to when it was wrapped.
The most interesting discovery was that the child had six fingers on one of his hands. This condition is called polydactyly and could have been a genetic consequence, possibly from the many incestual relationships that occurred in ancient Egypt. Although I will note that incestual marriages usually only occurred in the royal Egyptian family, which during the Roman Period were not in power. So this may have been caused by another genetic condition.
You can watch this short video about the mummies in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology here!