Mummy Mondays: Ramesses I

This week let’s talk about the founder of the 19th Dynasty, Ramesses I.

Life

Ramesses I was born Pa-ra-mes-su to a noble military family from the Nile Delta. His father was a troop commander named Seti and his uncle was Khaemwaset, an army officer married to Tamwajesy, matron of the Harem of Amun. He was born during the rise and fall of the Amarna Period, which was a very turbulent period of Egyptian history.

After the death of Pharaohs Tutankhamun and Ay, General Horemheb took the throne, making Ramesses I his vizier. He had several other titles such as,

“Chief of the Archers, Master of the Horse, Commander of the Fortress, Controller of the Nile Mouth, Charioteer of His Majesty, King’s Envoy to Every Foreign Land, Royal Scribe, Colonel, General of the Lord of the Two Lands, Chief of the Seal, Transporter of His Majesty, Royal Messenger for all Foreign Countries, Chief of the Priests of all Gods.”

Ramesses I’s cartouches

Horemheb had no children so he was in search of an heir, which is found in Ramesses. This may be because Ramesses already had a son, Seti I, and grandson Ramesses II so that the rule will stay in the family. Ramesses then became the “prince of the whole country, mayor of the city, and vizier,” as it is stated on a statue of him found in Karnak.

As mentioned, Ramesses I married a woman named Sitra who also came from a military family. They had one son, who would later become Pharaoh Seti I. He probably rose to the throne when he was in his 50s, which was quite old for an ancient Egyptian king. His prenomen was Menpehtyre, meaning “Established by the strength of Ra,” though he preferred to use his personal name Ramesses, which meant “Ra bore him.”

Ramesses I only ruled for about 16 or 17 months, either from 1292-1290 or 1295-1294 B.C.E. During his reign, he probably took care of domestic matters, while his son was in charge of undertaking military operations. Ramesses was able to complete the second pylon of Karnak Temple, which was started by Horemheb. He also ordered the provision of endowments for a Nubian temple at Buhen.

Death and Tomb

Since his rule was so short, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was hastily finished. KV16 is located directly across from Horemheb’s tomb. It is 29 meters long with a long single corridor and one unfinished room. First, there is one long flight of stairs with an entryway. Then there is a downward corridor with smooth walls but no plaster, followed by a second stairway. This is built into the rock with two deep ledges on either side. While the next chamber would typically be a well chamber, this is where the burial chamber is.

This chamber is a very small room with an immense sarcophagus made of red granite. This was painted rather than carved, probably due to a lack of time. The chambers are decorated with depictions of the Book of the Gates, which is a funerary text from the New Kingdom. It describes the nocturnal journey of the sun through the 12 gates which create the hours of the night. The images are very distinct as they all have a blue-grey background, which is the same style as Horemheb’s tomb.

Check out this link to learn more about the depictions in the tomb.

What Happened to his Mummy?

The tomb was discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in 1817. All that remained in the tomb was the damaged sarcophagus, a pair of six-foot wooden guardian statues once covered in gold foil, and some statues of underworld deities. But there was no mummy. So where was it?

The first clue was found in 1881 when the Deir el-Bahri cache was found. Here a fragmented coffin contained inscriptions telling us that the mummy of Ramesses I was removed from KV17 and placed in DB320 in Year 10, 4 prt, Day 17 of Siamun. The whole inscription on this coffin docket is below. This indicated that the priests of the Third Intermediate Period moved Ramesses I’s mummy from KV16 to KV17 before moving it to DB320. So, the mummy should be in DB320, right?. Unfortunately, not.

“(Yr 10 4 prt 17 of) king (nsw) Siamun. (Day of bringing king Men)pehtyre out of the (tomb of king Menmaatre-) Setymer(en)ptah (that he might be) taken into this high place (k3y) of Inhapi which is a (great pla)ce (st c3t) (and in which Amen)ophis rests, by the prophet of Amon (-Re king) of the gods Ankhefenamun son of Baky, and the god’s father of Amon (-Re king) of the gods, third prophet of Khonsemwast-Neferhotep, the scribe of off(erings of the house of Amon-Re) king of the gods, sm-priest of the temple of (Usermaatre-Setepenre) in the house of Amun, general of Tasetmerydjhuty, scribe and chief agent Nespakashuty son of Bak(en)khons. Afterwards Mut, the one having the authority over the great place (st wrt) said: (That which was in good condition in my care…)”

Rediscovery

In the late 90s, a mummy was discovered that had many indications of being a royal mummy, possibly that of Ramesses I.

This mummy was purchased by Dr. James Douglas in 1861 and brought to the United States. It was then sold to Colonel Sidney Barnett, son of the founder of the Niagara Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame. The mummy stayed in the museum for the next 130 years, labeled as one of the possible wives of Akhenaten, maybe even Nefertiti?

Dr. James Douglas (center)

In 1985, a German technician named Meinhard Hoffman persuaded a German television station to conduct a scientific examination of the mummy. Dr. Anne Eggebrecht examined the mummy and first discovered that it was a male. Dr. Wolfgang Pahl and his assistant Lisa Bark noted many features that could have been one of the missing New Kingdom mummies, such as the crossed arms and the hands clenched. There was also a coffin in the museum dated to the late 18th and early 19th dynasty.

The museum went under in the late 90s, and the Egyptian antiquities were purchased by the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University for 2 million dollars. Here the mummy went through CT-scanning and carbon dating. Based on the CT scans, x-rays, skull measurements, radiocarbon dating, and the overall look of the mummy, it was proposed to be the mummy of Ramesses I.

This most likely means that the Abu-Rassul family who found DB320 in 1871 (and thus put many items out on the antiquities market for years without detection) may have found the tomb almost 11 years earlier. It is thought that Ramesses I’s mummy was taken by the family and sold in 1860.

Based on all the evidence, the Egyptian government requested the mummy be returned to Egypt. It was returned on October 6th, 2003, and is now located at the Mummification Museum in Luxor, Egypt. Not all scholars agree that this is Ramesses I, but agree that it was a noble from the 18th or 19th dynasty, maybe even the mummy of Horemheb.

The Mummy

The mummy in question is 1.60 meters tall and died when he was 35 to 45 years old. It is very well preserved for his perilous journey. An incision was made in the left abdomen through which the internal organs had been removed and replaced with linen packing. The brain was extracted through the nose and the skull was filled with liquid resin. These are all typical of the late 18th and early 19th dynasties.

One of the mummy’s ears was deformed, which could have been a result of a poorly done ear piercing procedure. Although there is no other indication of how the pharaoh may have died, this ear infection could have contributed to his death.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramesses_I

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/mummy/rameses.html

https://www.ancient-egypt-online.com/ramses-I.html

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/ramessesi.htm

https://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/pharaons/ramses1/e_ramses1_01.htm

http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages2/19A.htm

https://www.osirisnet.net/3d-tours/kv16/index.php?en

https://ancientegypt.fandom.com/wiki/Ramesses_I

https://www.world-archaeology.com/world/africa/egypt/rameses-i-mummy-returned-to-cairo/#:~:text=The%20mummy%20of%20Ramesses%20I%20(1295%2D1294%20BC)%2C,Antiquities%2C%20Cairo%20in%20November%202003.&text=It%20was%20only%20identified%20as,Arne%20Eggevrecht%2C%20visited%20the%20museum.

https://tim-theegyptians.blogspot.com/2014/03/discovery-of-mummy-of-ramses-i.html

Image Sources

Stone head carving of Ramesses I at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – Wikimedia Commons (Keith Schengili-Roberts)

Ramesses I relief in the Allard Pierson Museum, Netherlands – Wikimedia Commons (Juan R. Lazaro)

Mummy – Wikimedia Commons (Alyssa Bivins)

Cartouche, tomb and wooden statue – http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/ramessesi.htm

Tomb plans – Osiris.net

Mummy – https://www.world-archaeology.com/world/africa/egypt/rameses-i-mummy-returned-to-cairo/#:~:text=The%20mummy%20of%20Ramesses%20I%20(1295-1294%20BC)%2C,Antiquities%2C%20Cairo%20in%20November%202003.&text=It%20was%20only%20identified%20as,Arne%20Eggevrecht%2C%20visited%20the%20museum

Mummy – https://tim-theegyptians.blogspot.com/2014/03/discovery-of-mummy-of-ramses-i.html

Mummy – http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1883142_1883129_1883105,00.html

James Douglas Jr. (center) and mummy and sarcophagus – http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1883142_1883129_1883105,00.html

Sarcophagus – https://givemehistory.com/ramses-i

Women Crush Wednesday: Aline and her Daughters

This Women Crush Wednesday, I am sticking with the Roman Period. Today let’s talk about Aline, her husband, and her daughters buried in a tomb in Hawara.

Life

Map of where Hawara is located in the Fayum Oasis

Very little is known about Aline’s life, but based on the funerary remains, she would have been part of the elite of Hawara. Hawara is a city in the Fayum Oasis in Lower Egypt which was called Crocodilopolis in ancient Roman Egypt. A stele that was found at the head of her mummy is the only thing that told us about Aline.

“Aline, also called Tenos, daughter of Herodes, much loved, died in year 10, age 35 years, on the 7th of Mesore.”

She apparently had a second name, Tenos, and was the daughter of Herodes. She died in the 10th year of some Roman emperor’s reign, but which one is the question. Based on the stele and the hairstyle of Aline (which surprisingly is a legitimate dating technique), it could have been the 10th year of the reign of Tiberius, which is 24 A.D., or the 10th year of the Trajan, which is 107 A.D. Most scholars prefer the first date.

Tomb

The tomb was found in Hawara in March 1892 by German archaeologist Richard von Kaufmann. There is contention if there was a superstructure to the tomb, but it seems to not have survived. A shaft led to a simple mud-brick-lined pit. Apparently, the tomb has been lost today, as the only description of the tomb was found in one of Kaufmann’s published lectures.

The Mummies in the Tomb

8 mummies were found in the tomb, stacked on top of each other. From top to bottom, there were three undecorated mummies, then two masked mummies, and three portrait mummies. Not all of the mummies have been preserved, but many of them are located at the Egyptian Museum, Berlin.

The only other items found in the tomb were the stele mentioned previously (ÄM 11415) and a cooking pot (ÄM 11403). Unfortunately, the stele has been lost since 1945, so the photograph is the only evidence of Aline’s name. The cooking pot however is almost completely preserved but has been glued from various sherds. It is blacked inside and out, indicating that it was used over a fire.

The three undecorated mummies have unfortunately not been studied, and their current location is not known. Although it is presumed that they were the last to be buried in the tomb, as they were found on top, their relationship to the other mummies is unclear. The ages and sexes of the mummies are not even known.

The two mummies with masks are of a man and a young woman. These mummies have “paper masks,” which are more like paper mache or plaster. These types of masks were common throughout the Greek and Roman period and were often very elaborate. These masks, like typical Egyptian coffins, were less concerned with depicting the individuals.

The mask of the man (ÄM 11414) was removed from the mummy and the mummy could not be located. This mask depicts a man wrapped in a toga, holding a small collection of pink flowers. He also wears a seal ring on his left hand. At the top of his head, the toga is painted to show lotus flowers and geometric motifs, but these may have been part of a restoration in the 1950s. The man’s eyes are inlaid with black and white stone and his eyelashes are made out of cut bronze. The man has been assumed to be the husband of Aline, but there is nothing that confirms this.

The other mummy (ÄM 12125/02) with a mask depicted a young woman, though, through CT scans, it was determined that the girl was around 7 years old. It is encased in linen bandages in a criss-cross pattern. The mask is also gilded, though the shroud and chiton are painted. She is also holding a garland of pink flowers. She is wearing hump earrings, a pearl necklace with a lunula pendant, two bracelets on the upper arms, two double-headed snake bracelets on the forearms, and an oval signet ring on her left pinkie finger. On the back of the head of the mask, there is an image of the goddess Nut in the form of a vulture. Presumably, this woman was a daughter of Aline.

The last two bodies were much smaller and found next to Aline. These have portraits rather than masks. These were extremely popular techniques, especially in the Hawara area. Many of these mummy portraits have been found, but unfortunately, many of them were removed from the mummies, which were then lost. There is contention on whether the portraits accurately portray the deceased, but it is generally agreed that they are more alike to the mummy than other Egyptian depictions.

The first child mummy (ÄM 11412) is wrapped in a rhombic pattern with small gilded stucco buttons. This girl was no more than four years old when she died. She seems to resemble her mother with curly black hair and bangs. She wears a brown tunic, a laurel wreath in her hair, hump earrings, and a gold chain with a crescent moon-shaped pendant.

The second mummy (ÄM 11413) has proven harder to examine. It was originally believed to be a boy based on the portrait, but that was contradicted based on the purple color of the tunic and the crescent-shaped necklace, both of which are typical for girls. But CT scans that were done on the body indicate that it was a boy who was about 2 and a half years old. The boy has curly dark hair with a golden leaf laurel wreath.

A shroud (ÄM 12125/01) was found on one of the girl’s mummies, but I could not figure out which mummy. It is badly damaged on the left, but it depicts multiple gods, including Anubis over a mummy on a bier.

Aline’s Portrait

When the tomb was found, the painting (ÄM 11411) was removed from the mummy and the mummy was unwrapped. Unfortunately, it has not been preserved. And the head was removed and given to Richard Virchow, who was supposed to create a facial reconstruction. According to sources, the mummy has rhombic wrappings with gilded stucco buttons, like the two other children.

The portrait was painted in tempera on linen, most likely after her death. Usually, these paintings were made before someone’s death and then hung in their house until their death. She is depicted with small black curls in a white tunic or chiton with thin lilac bands across her shoulder. She also wears large drop earrings and a golden necklace made of gilded plaster.

Aline’s husband’s mask and her portrait

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomb_of_Aline

http://www.egyptian-museum-berlin.com/c34

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Aline%27s_Daughters

https://www.worldhistory.org/image/11147/mummies-of-alines-daughters-hawara/

https://www.worldhistory.org/image/11146/mummified-girl-from-the-tomb-of-aline/

https://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2018/2018.10.02

https://www.worldhistory.org/image/11145/male-mummy-mask-from-the-tomb-of-aline/

http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=607539&viewType=detailView

http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=761702&viewType=detailView

Image Sources

Images of the all the pieces – Egyptian Museum, Berlin

Portrait of Aline – Wikimedia Commons (Jean-Pierre Dalbera)

Portrait of the two daughters – Wikimedia Commons (Mumienporträt wohl einer Tochter der Aline, Tempera auf Leinwand, um 24 n.Chr., gefunden in Hawara/Fayum; Ägyptisches Museum Berlin/Altes Museum, Inv.-Nr. 11412 – 11413)

Mask of her husband – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg))

Mask of her daughter – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg))

Bodies of her children – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg))

Aline and her husband – http://www.astrodoc.net/andere/berlinaegmus8.htm

Her other daughter – https://www.worldhistory.org/image/11146/mummified-girl-from-the-tomb-of-aline/#google_vignette

Map – https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa/lost-labyrinth-ancient-egypt-part-3-uncovering-its-location-002039

Mummy Monday: “Umi”

This week let’s talk about a Roman mummy who has been dubbed Umi! He is located at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Museum of Natural History & Science.

Life

There is very little known about the life of Umi. Umi is not his actual name, but a name that researchers have given him. The name is from African influence and means “life.”

We do know that this was the boy of a very young boy, probably 3 to 5 years old. He died sometime during the Roman Period of Egypt, probably around 100 A.D. Although the Romans ruled over Egypt at this time, Egyptian funerary traditions were still around, though slightly altered.

Provenance

I couldn’t find out how the mummy came to America, but it seems to have been in the Cincinnati Art Museum since at least the 1970s. It was then in storage until the 1980s when it was x-rayed and possibly displayed in the museum. When this first scan was taken, it was discovered that the mummy was that of a young boy rather than of a “young princess,” as said in the records.

The mummy was then rescanned in 2009 in preparation for a traveling exhibition called “Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science” which was at the Cincinnati Museum Center. During this exhibition, the mummy was donated to the Museum Center from the Art Museum, and it has since been on display in the Museum of Natural History & Science.

It was then rescanned in 2019 at Northern Kentucky University’s Health Innovation Center. Here radiology students and museum professionals analyzed the remains with a single slice X-ray imaging device. This was done for a new exhibit that opened on March 22, 2019.

Mummy

The mummy of the boy is preserved in a cartonnage, which is a plaster-like material. This is then decorated with images of Egyptian gods and goddesses, including Anubis (or a priest wearing an Anubis helmet) attending to the corpse of the boy laying on a bier. The mummy also shows the face of the boy in a much more realistic manner than many earlier sarcophagi. You can read more about the designs on the cartonnage here.

Although this mummy has not been unwrapped, the different 3D scans have helped us seen inside the mummy. They were able to determine the age of the mummy based on scans of the boys’ teeth and jaw. Scans did show a dusting along with the bones of what looks like cotton fuzz, which may be from insects, but the researchers aren’t sure. They were not able to figure out how the boy died, but they were able to see 24 amulets that had been placed within the wrappings.

This CT scan provides some great views of the amulets that were buried with the boy

A 3D printed replica of the mummy and the amulets was made in 2009 and supposedly a new model was going to be made from the 2019 scans.

Check out these videos about the mummy here!

Sources

https://www.thenortherner.com/news/2019/01/18/whos-umi-what-to-know-about-nkus-mummy-project/

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

https://www.wlwt.com/article/what-secrets-does-cincinnatis-child-mummy-hold/25935812

https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/campbell-county/highland-heights/child-mummy-umi-brings-history-science-and-education-together-at-nku

https://inside.nku.edu/nkumagazine/2019/february/umi.html

https://www.nku.edu/news/2019/january/hicumi.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TEuevM_uhs

Image Sources

Mummy being scanned – Northern Kentucky University

Mummy in exhibit and mummy’s face– Northern Kentucky University

Photo of 3D reconstruction – https://www.nkytribune.com/2019/01/fascinating-umi-nkus-public-history-health-innovations-scan-cinci-museums-child-mummy/

CT scan and photos of cartonnage – Elias paper

Women Crush Wednesday: Winifred M. Brunton

For Women Crush Wednesday let’s talk about an Egyptologist who is known for her imaginative drawings of the ancient kings and queens of Egypt. Let’s meet Winnifred Brunton.

Early Life

Winifred Mabel Newberry was born on May 6th, 1880 in the Orange Free State of South Africa. Her father Charles Newberry was a millionaire who made his money in the diamond mining industry in Kimberly South Africa. Winifred’s mother was named Elizabeth and she was also very artistic. Her father was also the builder of Prynnsberg Estate, which is a large house in Clocolan. This house is still standing to this day and is now an elite hotel and wedding venue.

Egyptological Life

Winifred was presented to court in London in 1898. This is most likely where she met Guy Brunton, who became her future husband. Guy Brunton was an English archaeologist and Egyptologist. He most notably discovered the Badarian predynastic culture. He later became the Assistant Director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 1931.

There are very little photos of Guy Brunton that I could find, but those at the University of Cambridge archives think this is him sleeping possibly at the archaeological site of Matmar!

They were married on April 28th, 1906, and built a house together in Berea, Johannesburg later that year. Together they studied at University College London under Flinders Petrie, training with Margaret Murray. During this time, Winifred painted a portrait of Petrie.

They traveled to work with Petrie in Lahun from 1912 to 1914. Here, Winifred studied the evidence of the various paintings, sculptures, and even mummies to develop her final portraits. They also worked with Petrie at sites like Badari where Winifred drew many of the discovered artifacts.

In Guy’s publication of the excavations of Mostagedda in 1927 and 1929, he wrote that she was “the hardest-working member of the party” and “without her skill and untiring energy this volume would have had only a very small proportion of its value as a record.” Both of them would be on-site for months at a time and Guy and Winifred were equal partners. She was also known to work with Gertrude Caton Thompson and Hilda Petrie.

Winifred and her husband retired at her family’s mansion in Prynnsberg where she died in 1959 at the age of 78.

Her Art

Winifred was best known for her portraits of the ancient Egyptian kings and queens. She published many of these watercolors in her books, Kings, and Queens of Ancient Egypt in 1926 and Great Ones of Ancient Egypt in 1929.

While her portraits are not necessarily accurate, her portraits have been hugely influential and defined the faces of the Pharaohs and the Queens in popular cultures. I believe that some may need a little updating because of biases of the time.

Here is a link to some of her paintings with are on sale.

She also painted the murals in her family’s home, some of which were Egyptian-themed. The estate became a national gem, but her family’s fortune did not survive, and many items were sold in 1996. Some of the auction pieces were numerous Egyptian antiquities that the Bruntons excavated and one of her paint palettes, which is now in the collection of Lambert Vorster.

Her palette and a painting of an Egyptian

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winifred_Brunton

https://trowelblazers.com/winifred-brunton/

https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2014/01/17/cairo-camden-and-the-cape/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Brunton

Image Sources

Photo of her painting – Wikimedia Commons (Bobbyshabangu)

Cleopatra, Ramesses II, Nubian Pharaoh, ancient Egyptian couple, and other portraits – https://www.quora.com/What-do-Egyptologists-think-of-Winifred-Bruntons-portraits-of-ancient-Egyptian-royals-and-nobles

More portraits – https://alchetron.com/Winifred-Brunton

Her paint palette and a sketch of a young Egyptian – https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2014/01/17/cairo-camden-and-the-cape/

Image of Guy Brunton sleeping, possibly at Matmar – https://storestoriescambridge.wordpress.com/tag/winifred-brunton/

Portraits – http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/winiferbrunton.htm

Portraits – https://www.art.com/gallery/id–a62263/winifred-brunton-posters.htm?fbclid=IwAR2J2ACd_wjWvGC-J1rHg8i-VknxCMFQM4F2KmlQ7u5TDisfXQPZLFPcYww

Portraits – https://www.robertneralich.com/2019/05/06/sentient-in-san-francisco-6-may-2019/

Mummy Monday: Tattooed Mummy from Deir el-Medina

This week’s Mummy Monday is a little different. We don’t know the identity of this mummy, but her remains tell us a very unique story. Let’s talk about the tattooed mummy from Deir el-Medina.

Location

The tattooed torso of a woman was found and excavated in 2014. This was found within the assemblage that was stored in TT291 in Deir el-Medina, though it is believed that the assemblage was originally found in TT290, the tomb right next door.

The section that Anne Austin worked on in TT290 and TT291

Tomb 290 was originally the tomb of Irynefer, a necropolis workman who lived in Deir el-Medina during the Ramesside Period, 19th to 20th Dynasties. It is a small shaft tomb underneath a pyramid chapel. It was most likely looted in antiquity and then used for later burials. The tomb was discovered in 1922 and some of it was excavated in 1922. From pictures from the original excavation were full of comingled remains.

Original image of the comingled human remains at the botton of TT290

These remains were most likely moved to TT291 in 2004 in preparation for the public exhibition of Tomb 290. Anne Austin, an Egyptologist working for the Institute Francais d’Archaeologie Orientale’s mission to Deir el-Medina in 2014 researched the remains found. She determined that there were the remains of at least 26 individuals.

Mummy Torso

The torso also dates to the Ramesside Period (1300 – 1070 BCE). It was found unwrapped, except for one layer of bandages on the right forearm. The head, hands, and legs are no longer present. The mummy was at one point eviscerated, but there is no visceral cut. Rather there is a transvaginal or transperineal cut. While this practice wasn’t the most popular, there is evidence for this technique in other New Kingdom mummies.

Because the skull was missing, this made it very difficult to estimate the age of the mummy. But with the remaining bones of the torso, an estimation was made of 25 to 34 years old. She may have been mummified with the use of resins and this actually disguised some of the tattoos. Because of the looted state of the tomb, there is no way to tell if the mummy originally had any burial equipment when she was buried.

The Tattoos

When the torso was discovered, Anne Austin noticed the marking on the neck of the mummy, but originally thought these were painted on post-mortem. But upon further investigation, these marks were tattoos. Tattoos in Egypt began to appear in the Middle Kingdom and evidence suggests that only women got tattoos.

Anne Austin published a paper and gave a talk about the finds on this mummy. When investigating the torso further, she was able to find many more tattoos. She also used infrared photography to find tattoos that had faded. A computer program called DStretch was used to flesh out and stretch the skin so that the tattoos looked more like they would have before mummification.

There is evidence that someone else would have had to apply some of these, as they are unreachable for the person to tattoo themselves. This implies that there was some sort of tattoo artist or system of tattooing established. There is also considerable variation in the darkness of the tattoos. This could imply that the applications of some tattoos were less effective, the tattoos may have naturally diffused over time, or some other process made the tattoos fade. If the tattoos naturally diffused over time, it implies that this woman received the tattoos over a couple of years rather than all at once.

All the tattoos maped on her body

In total 30 tattoos were found, but there may have been more on the parts of the body that were lost. The tattoos are found on the neck, shoulders, back, and arms. These locations are a slight departure from previous tattoos found on mummies. Usually, tattoos are found in more private places, where the tattoos would not be visible on an everyday basis. These are then associated with eroticism. Previous Egyptologists have remarked that tattooed Egyptian women were “prostitutes of dubious origins.”

But these tattoos, except for one on the lower back, are all in very visible places. I’ll talk about the interpretations of the individual tattoos and them as a whole after, but first, let’s take a look at them!

Anne Austin has labeled all of the individual tattoos by T- and then a number. I’ll be talking about them in groups because many of these tattoos are symmetrical! Check out her article here to see a table of all the tattoos and their interpretations!

On the neck, there are two symmetrical seated baboons (T01 & T02) on either side of Wadjet eye (or Eye of Horus) (T03) on top of two Wadjet eyes with two nefers in between them (T04). These are very visible and were the first tattoos noticed. Nefer is the hieroglyph that means “good” or “beautiful.”

On the left and right shoulder, there are matching symbols of two Wadjet eyes around three nefers (T05 & T06). There is also either a uraeus or a snake (T07 & T08) and another tattoo on either side that could not be discerned (T09 & T10). Below on the right shoulder is a girdle knot hieroglyph (T11) and a cobra (T13). Below on the left shoulder is just a cobra (T12).

This is where the tattoos begin to differentiate. Following the right arm down, there is a cross-shape (T15), a uraeus (T21), a Hathor handle (T22), an unknown tattoo (T23), possibly a bouquet of flowers (T24), and a snake with a basket (T25). On the left, there is a cross-shape (T14), a uraeus (T16), a snake with a solar disk (T17), dual khepri beetles or a sistrum (T18), faded hieroglyphs below a snake the signs mx wab (T19), and Hathor cows (T20).

On the upper back, there are a few asymmetrical tattoos. There is a hieroglyph of a clump of papyrus with the buds bending down and the signs for mw (T27), a Wadjet eye with the signs for mw (T28), and a Wadjet presented by a baboon (T29). Finally, the largest tattoo is found on the lower back. It is a series of dots connecting two lotus blossoms which are located on the back of the hips (T30).

The Interpretations

The tattoos appear like amulets on the body which implies their meaning is of a magical or protective kind. This may have been a way to permanently attach the magical power of the amulet to one person. This could have been done to ensure healing and/or protection against illness, which would imply that this woman was very ill during her life. Unfortunately, because of the damage to the body, that is hard to discern.

Many of the tattoos can be associated with gods such a Thoth in the baboons and Hathor in the Hathor handle and cows. The Wadjet eyes and the nefer signs could be translated as “seeing the beauties” or as a votive formula, ir nfr ir nfr, or “do good, do good.”

The Hathor handle, which is pretty much a handle of something (usually a sistrum) with the face of Hathor, is upside down as if to mimic its position when held during use. This would have been “activated” by dance or movement, which would mean that every movement of this woman’s arm would ritually shake the handle.

While some of the tattoos are connected with the idea of power and divine action, most of them have to do with some sort of protective magic. This links the woman to the cult of Hathor, which would have empowered her to take on important cultic or magical roles. These tattoos help us conclude that she might have taken on one of several important roles in the cults of ancient Egypt, either as a wise woman, priestess, or healer.

You can also watch Anne talk about this find in the video below.

http://histoires-courtes.fr/v.html?subject=Austin

Sources

https://journals.openedition.org/bifao/296#ftn18

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

https://www.arce.org/resource/tattooing-ancient-egypt

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/infrared-reveals-egyptian-mummies-hidden-tattoos-180973700/

https://deirelmedinaegypt.wixsite.com/home/tt290

https://escholarship.org/content/qt4rw1m0cz/qt4rw1m0cz.pdf

https://deirelmedinaegypt.wixsite.com/home/tt291

Image Sources

Photos of Mummy – Anne Austin

Plan of TT290 and TT291 – Anne Austin

Photo of TT290 – Elvira Kronlob 2011

Photo of TT291 – Lenka and Andy Peacock

Plan of TT291 – Lenka Peacock

Plan of TT290 – touregypt.net/featurestories/Irunefert.htm

Women Crush Wednesday: Merit

As I mentioned on Monday, today we are going to talk about Kha’s wife Merit. I have duplicated the text about their tomb below, so if it looks similar to Monday’s post, then that’s why!

Life

Merit was titled Mistress of the House, which was a standard title for women who were in charge of a large household. Women from Deir el-Medina often had a large range of tasks to undertake because the men of the village lived near the worksite for the majority of the week.

Merit had three known children, two sons, Amenemopet and Nakhteftaneb, and a daughter named Merit. Amenemopet seems to have followed his father’s footsteps in becoming an overseer of works while their daughter because a Singer of Amun.

Merit died many years before her husband died, so she was the first one buried in the tomb.

Tomb Discovery

The chapel of Kha and Merit had been found in the early years of the 19th century by Bernardino Drovetti. This stela was found in the pyramid chapel is currently located at the Turin Museum (N.50007), years before Kha and Merit’s items were on display there.

Kha and Merit were buried in TT8 above Deir el-Medina, 25 meters away from the pyramid chapel. The tomb was discovered by Arthur Weigall and Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1906 on behalf of the Italian Archaeological Mission. They were working at the top of the western cemetery when they found the tomb. They were surprised to discover the tomb in the isolated cliffs surrounding the village and not in the immediate proximity of the chapel itself.

The tomb escaped discovery because it was hidden in the hill opposite the chapel, rather than beneath it. This was what Arthur Weigall said when it was found,

“The mouth of the tomb was approached down a flight of steep, rough steps, still half-choked with debris. At the bottom of this, the entrance of a passage running into the hillside was blocked by a wall of rough stones. After photographing and removing this, we found ourselves in a long, low tunnel, blocked by a second wall a few yards ahead. Both these walls were intact, and we realized that we were about to see what probably no living man had ever seen before…”

Tomb

Two of the walls were removed so that they could stand in a roughly cut corridor about standing height. Lined up against the wall were pieces of burial furniture, several baskets, a couple of amphorae, a bed, and a stool with a carrying pole. At the end was a simple wooden door,

“The wood retained the light color of fresh deal and looked for all the world as though it had been set up but yesterday. A heavy wooden lock held the door fast. A neat bronze handle on the side of the door was connected by a spring to a wooden knob set in the masonry door post; and this spring was carefully sealed with a small dab of stamped clay. The whole contrivance seemed so modern that professor Schiaparelli called to his servant for the key, who quite seriously replied, “I don’t know where it is, sir.” “

The lock was carefully cut with a fret saw and the burial chamber was behind this door. All of the burial items were carefully placed around the room covered with dust sheets. This is also where the coffins of Kha and Merit were located.

Burial Assemblage

This was one of the few tombs of nobility to survive intact. I mentioned the majority of the items found in the tomb on Monday, but today, I’ll talk about the items explicitly buried for Merit. Approximately 196 objects can be attributed to Kha, 39 objects are attributed to Merit, and 6 objects are attributed to both of them.

Like Kha, Merit was also buried with a large bed. This was found made up with sheets, fringed bed covers, towels, and a wooden headrest encased in two layers of cloth. This is almost identical to Kha’s bed, but it is smaller. It rests on lion feet raised on cylindrical wooden pads painted red, while the rest of the bed is painted white.

Merit’s beauty case is one of the most beautiful that has been found. It contains multiple cosmetic vessels like a high necked blue faience jar, an alabaster jar with a silver handle, 3 covered alabaster jars, a conical jar of horn with a bronze handle, and a removable base decorated with a rosette.

Like Kha, she also had various boxes packed with clothing for her to “use” in the afterlife. But one of the most amazing objects found was a wig and a wig case of Merit. Inside the case was a long wig made from human hair, about 54 cm long. It was elaborately crimped with a middle part and the tresses were plaited at the ends. Three long thick plaits are positioned at the back of the wig with two thinner plaits to frame the face. This wig is held together by an elaborate system of knots and weaves. The box was made of acacia wood in the shape of a shrine. On the lid and side of the box, there is a funerary offering formula.

I also want to mention some of the other items that I didn’t get a chance to talk about on Monday. Ten stools were found in the tomb in total. Some were painted white and some had lion paw feet, similar to the bed. Two stools were made out of brown leather and one of those stools actually folded! Interestingly, two of the stools would have been the same type used by artisans in workshops.

There was also a game of senet, which was an ancient Egyptian board game that during the New Kingdom took on a religious aspect. It was used as a way that the ancient Egyptians could play the game against “fate” to earn a place in the afterlife. This one is made out of wood with a sliding drawer to hold all the pieces. On the other side of the board is another game called the Game of Twenty Squares.

Coffins

Because Merit died at such a young age, she apparently had not had any coffins made for her yet. So, her husband donated his already prepared coffin for her burial. But this coffin was too big for his wife, so Kha’s linens, as they had various laundry marks on them, were used as stuffing around the body.

Merit was buried in two coffins. The outer coffin was in the shape of a large shrine. The lid of her inner coffin was entirely gilded but the box was covered with the black bitumen resin, with only the figures and inscriptions in gold. The eyebrows and eye sockets were made of inlaid blue glass, while the eyes were made of opaque white and translucent glass. Merit also had a cartonnage mask. It was made of linen stuccoed, covered in gold leaf, and inlaid with stone and colored glass. It was found slightly crushed and needed conservation. The left eye was restored and the mask reshaped.

Mummy

Merit’s mummy, like Kha’s, has never been unwrapped, but it has been studied and scanned extensively. Her body was not as well preserved or wrapped as well as Kha’s. She was also wearing a ton of jewelry like her husband.

She wore a Wesekh or a broad collar which was made of gold interspaced with gemstones. These were probably amethyst, lapis lazuli, carnelian, turquoise, or faience. Merit had two pairs of golden ribbed earrings, which a unique example of a double piercing. These were fashionable of elite women of the mid-18th dynasty. She also wore four finger rings, two of which has a fixed oval plate and two which had a flexible oval plate. One of these rings fell off and was found behind her head.

Merit also wore a matching set including a necklace, a bracelet, and a girdle. The necklace has three rows made of very fine beads connected by fine golden tubes. Some of these pieces and parts of its dislocate elements appear near the ankles. The bracelet follows the same style as the necklace as it is made out of ten rows of fine beads strung between golden elements and a locking end piece. The girdle sits on her waist and is made of fine beads and metal cowrie shell-shaped parts.

No amulets were found on her body probably because of her sudden death. All of these pieces of jewelry are items that she would have worn while she was alive. Merit’s mummy is also wearing a wig, so she was prepared for the afterlife.

Merit was most likely 25 to 35 years old when she died. There was significant post-mortem damage including a depressed thorax, broken rib cage, dislocated spine, and pelvis. There is no evidence of how she died. The mummy had been treated with fish oil, balsam, resin, and beeswax.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TT8

http://www.deirelmedina.com/lenka/TurinKha.html

https://www.archaeology.org/news/3561-150810-kha-merit-embalmed

https://www.efe.com/efe/english/technology/secret-lives-of-mummies-science-unravels-all-at-egypt-exhibit-in-turin/50000267-3933701

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4511739/

Image Sources

Inner gilded coffin of Kha – Wikimedia Commons (Hans Ollermann)

Bowls, vases, and jugs – Wikimedia Commons (Hans Ollermann)

Statue of Kha and a chair – Wikimedia Commons (Jean-Pierre Dalbera)

Toilet box and vessels of Merit and Kha – Wikimedia Commons (Jean-Pierre Dalbera)

Entrance of permanent exhibition in Turin – Hans Ollermann

Deir el Medina western cemetery – Kenka Peacock

Stela of Kha and Merit – Su Bayfield

Ernesto Schiaperelli’s bust in the Turin Museum – Hans Ollerman

Wooden door of the tomb – Hans Ollerman

Objects found in tomb in Turin – Su Bayfield

Bread, bowls with seeds, grapes, meats – Hans Ollerman

Bronze bowl – Hans Ollerman

Coffins of Kha and Merit – Hans Ollerman

Cubit rule and scribal palettes – Hans Ollerman

Wooden grinders – Su Bayfield

Bed, stools, boxes, jugs, and metal objects, faience rings, baskets, sandals, Book of the Dead, Merit’s funerary mask, oitments and jugs, box handle, wig box and inscription,  – Hans Ollerman

Boxes and jugs, tunic, senet game, statue, Merit’s bed, her wig,  – Su Bayfield

Shabtis – Dik van Bommel

X-rays – Article (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0131916)

Images of tomb, outer coffin of Kha and Merit, Merit’s funerary mask, Merit in her coffin, Book of the Dead, gold cubit rod, chair, wig and wig box, senet board, stela, glass jars   – https://www.egyptianhistorypodcast.com/kha-and-merit/

Tomb – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322711469_Schiaparelli_et_les_archeologues_italiens_aux_bords_du_Nil_egyptologie_et_rivalites_diplomatiques_entre_1882_et_1922

Protractor thing? – Flickr (Hans Olldermann)

Pictures of the tomb location and decoration – https://egyptmyluxor.weebly.com/kha-tomb-tt8—deir-el-medina—luxor.html

Mummy Monday: Kha

This Monday and Wednesday I am featuring an ancient Egyptian couple, Kha and Merit, who lived and were buried in Deir el-Medina in the 18th Dynasty. Today let’s talk about Kha!

Life

Kha was the overseer of works in Deir el-Medina, which if you recall is a special village built on the West side of the Nile from Thebes that housed the builder and craftsman that built the royal tombs. As overseer of works, sometimes called the royal architect, Kha would have been in charge of the various tombs being built and decorated in the Valley of the Kings and Queens. He was responsible for the projects constructed during the reigns of Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV, and Amenhotep III.

Kha’s wife was named Merit, who I will talk about in great detail this Wednesday. They had three known children, two sons, Amenemopet and Nakhteftaneb, and a daughter named Merit. Amenemopet seems to have followed his father’s footsteps in becoming an overseer of works while their daughter because a Singer of Amun.

Tomb Discovery

The chapel of Kha and Merit had been found in the early years of the 19th century by Bernardino Drovetti. This stela above was found in the pyramid chapel is currently located at the Turin Museum (N.50007), years before Kha and Merit’s items were on display there.

Kha and his wife were buried in TT8 above Deir el-Medina, 25 meters away from the pyramid chapel. The tomb was discovered by Arthur Weigall and Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1906 on behalf of the Italian Archaeological Mission. They were working at the top of the western cemetery when they found the tomb. They were surprised to discover the tomb in the isolated cliffs surrounding the village and not in the immediate proximity of the chapel itself.

The tomb escaped discovery because it was hidden in the hill opposite the chapel, rather than beneath it. This was what Arthur Weigall said when it was found,

“The mouth of the tomb was approached down a flight of steep, rough steps, still half-choked with debris. At the bottom of this, the entrance of a passage running into the hillside was blocked by a wall of rough stones. After photographing and removing this, we found ourselves in a long, low tunnel, blocked by a second wall a few yards ahead. Both these walls were intact, and we realized that we were about to see what probably no living man had ever seen before…”

Tomb

Two of the walls were removed so that they could stand in a roughly cut corridor about standing height. Lined up against the wall were pieces of burial furniture, several baskets, a couple of amphorae, a bed, and a stool with a carrying pole. At the end was a simple wooden door,

“The wood retained the light color of fresh deal and looked for all the world as though it had been set up but yesterday. A heavy wooden lock held the door fast. A neat bronze handle on the side of the door was connected by a spring to a wooden knob set in the masonry door post; and this spring was carefully sealed with a small dab of stamped clay. The whole contrivance seemed so modern that professor Schiaparelli called to his servant for the key, who quite seriously replied, “I don’t know where it is, sir.” “

The lock was carefully cut with a fret saw and the burial chamber was behind this door. All of the burial items were carefully placed around the room covered with dust sheets. This is also where the coffins of Kha and Merit were located.

Burial Assemblage

This was one of the few tombs of nobility to survive intact. I am only going to mention the items that explicitly belonged to Kha, though there will be some overlap with Wednesday’s post. Approximately 196 objects can be attributed to Kha, 39 objects are attributed to Merit, and 6 objects are attributed to both of them.

Some of the most important items for Kha were found in his tomb. These included tools that he would have used in his job. There is a cubit ruler that is covered in gold leaf which was a gift from Amenhotep II and a reward for the rapid construction of a building. This was probably more ceremonial, but he would have had a wooden one. There were also multiple scribal palettes and a writing tablet. Four smoothers were found in the tomb which would have been used for papyrus or perhaps to grind pigments. There is one unique wooden instrument with a wheel below, whose purpose has been debated for the past 100 years. Most views conclude that this was used as a balance or as a protractor.

The remainder of the tomb was filled with various items that would help Kha get to the afterlife. There was a bed made out of wood and interlacing fibers in the center. It had a large footboard and a headrest on one side. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit in the burial chamber so it was left in the antechamber. There were also storage chests, chairs, stools, and wooden tables.

Many of the boxes were inscribed with texts, some invoking the god Amun-Re and others saying “A funerary offering dedicated to Kha’s ka spirit.” These boxes contained many of the personal belongings of Kha and Merit including kohl tubes, rugs, and textiles. There were also boxes painted with native scenes of the deceased and his wife before an offering table. One bronze bowl was found with the name Amenhotep III and a painting with the name of Kha.

A statue of Kha was also found. It wears a shoulder-length wig and a small garland of real flowers adorned on the chest. This had a funerary prayer written in yellow pigment on the statue. Two shabtis for Kha were found and placed in a model sarcophagus with agricultural tools.

Multiple pieces of clothing were found including 26 knee-length shirts and about 50 loincloths. There were also short triangular pieces of material that would have been worn in the context of agricultural or building work. 17 heavier linen tunics were found for winter wear and there was one example of a lightweight linen tunic without sleeves, which is the only one that has ever been found. Many of these pieces had laundry marks, which were small inscriptions that labeled the owner. Some of the textiles were found with woven lotus motifs. Finally, sandals that were made from vegetable fibers and leather were also found.

Coffins

Kha was buried in one rectangular coffin and two anthropoid coffins. The outer rectangular coffin was in the shape of a shrine and covered in bitumen, which is a black resin substance. This coffin was left of sledge runners, which would have helped the priests bring the coffin into the tomb.

The outer coffin was covered in black bitumen, with the face, stripes of the wig, bands of inscription, and figures of funerary gods in gilded gesso. There is a gilded vulture of Nekhbet on the chest of the coffin. A garland of flowers was laid over this coffin.

The inner coffin was entirely covered in gold lead, except for the eyes, eye-brows, and cosmetic lines, which were inlaid. Quartz or rock crystal was used for the whites of the eyes while black glass or obsidian was used for the pupils. The rest was made out of blue glass. The coffin is posed like the god Osiris with his arms over his chest. The coffin has a board collar with falcon-headed terminals. Below is a vulture with outstretched wings grasping two shen-signs in the talons.

Kha’s Book of the Dead was found within the inner coffin. It has 33 chapters and is 13.8 meters long.

Mummy

Kha’s mummy was never unwrapped, but it has been scanned and studied multiple times over the years. His mummy is better preserved than his wife’s. There had been theories that Kha was not mummified because the organs were not removed from the body and placed in canopic jars. But upon further investigation, the organs were mummified and then preserved inside the body. Kha’s wrapping was treated with animal fat or plant oil and balsam.

Kha’s mummy was wearing extensive jewelry. He wore large golden earrings, which were one of the earliest examples of a man wearing earrings. A gold of honor collar was around his neck. This was a reward that distinguished ancient Egyptians and was received from their king. It is made of a single string of golden discs. He wore six different rings on his fingers which were made out of gold, faience, and some scarabs.

A heart scarab that was attached to either a wire or gold or a gold plated spun chain was around his neck. The scarab most likely had spell 30B of the Book of the Dead on the base. Two more amulets were found on Kha. One was an amulet of Isis which was probably made out of a red stone. And then there was a serpent amulet which was found on the forehead of Kha, kind of like a uraeus on a king. Because this amulet was typically found on the neck, this may imply that the people of Deir el-Medina regarded Kha as a local king.

Kha was about 50 to 60 years old when he died. Besides an inflamed elbow and a bad back, Kha was in relatively good health. His brain remnants and his lungs had shrunken, and his hands laid on his pelvis. There was no evidence of any fatal trauma.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TT8

http://www.deirelmedina.com/lenka/TurinKha.html

https://www.archaeology.org/news/3561-150810-kha-merit-embalmed

https://www.efe.com/efe/english/technology/secret-lives-of-mummies-science-unravels-all-at-egypt-exhibit-in-turin/50000267-3933701

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4511739/

Image Sources

Inner gilded coffin of Kha – Wikimedia Commons (Hans Ollermann)

Bowls, vases, and jugs – Wikimedia Commons (Hans Ollermann)

Statue of Kha and a chair – Wikimedia Commons (Jean-Pierre Dalbera)

Toilet box and vessels of Merit and Kha – Wikimedia Commons (Jean-Pierre Dalbera)

Entrance of permanent exhibition in Turin – Hans Ollermann

Deir el Medina western cemetery – Kenka Peacock

Stela of Kha and Merit – Su Bayfield

Ernesto Schiaperelli’s bust in the Turin Museum – Hans Ollerman

Wooden door of the tomb – Hans Ollerman

Objects found in tomb in Turin – Su Bayfield

Bread, bowls with seeds, grapes, meats – Hans Ollerman

Bronze bowl – Hans Ollerman

Coffins of Kha and Merit – Hans Ollerman

Cubit rule and scribal palettes – Hans Ollerman

Wooden grinders – Su Bayfield

Bed, stools, boxes, jugs, and metal objects, faience rings, baskets, sandals, Book of the Dead, Merit’s funerary mask, oitments and jugs, box handle, wig box and inscription,  – Hans Ollerman

Boxes and jugs, tunic, senet game, statue, Merit’s bed, her wig,  – Su Bayfield

Shabtis – Dik van Bommel

X-rays – Article (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0131916)

Images of tomb, outer coffin of Kha and Merit, Merit’s funerary mask, Merit in her coffin, Book of the Dead, gold cubit rod, chair, wig and wig box, senet board, stela, glass jars   – https://www.egyptianhistorypodcast.com/kha-and-merit/

Tomb – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322711469_Schiaparelli_et_les_archeologues_italiens_aux_bords_du_Nil_egyptologie_et_rivalites_diplomatiques_entre_1882_et_1922

Protractor thing? – Flickr (Hans Olldermann)

Pictures of the tomb location and decoration – https://egyptmyluxor.weebly.com/kha-tomb-tt8—deir-el-medina—luxor.html

Women Crush Wednesday: Goddess Sekhmet

This week let’s do something a little different. How about we discuss an ancient Egyptian goddess. And I couldn’t pick a better one first choice as Sekhmet!

Name

Sekhmet’s name has been spelled in a variety of ways from Sachmis, Sakhmet, Sekhet, or Scheme. Her name comes from the Egyptian word sxm, which means “power” or “might.” It is typically translated as “The One who is Powerful.”

She has a large range of titles. She was the “One Before Whom Evil Trembles,” “Mistress of Dread,” “Lady of Slaughter,” “She Who Mauls,” “One Who Loved Maat,” and sometimes even the “Lady of Life.”

Traits

Now Sekhmet was the goddess of war, chaos, the hot desert sun, and even healing. She is the protector of the pharaohs and protected them in the afterlife. She was said to breathe fire, and the hot winds of the desert were likened to her breath. She also caused plagues, which were called her servants or her messengers. Even though she has all these terrifying characteristics, she was also the patron of physicians and healers, because to her friends, she could cure all diseases.

There is not always a clear family tree of Egyptian gods and goddesses, but Sekhmet was sometimes considered the wife of Ptah and the mother of his son Nefertum. She also may have been the mother of another lion god called Maahes. And her parents are sometimes considered to be Geb, who was the earth, and Nut, who was the sky.

She was a solar deity, sometimes called the daughter of Ra. It was said that she was created from the fire of the sun god Ra’s eye when he looked upon the earth. He apparently created her as a weapon to destroy humans for their disobedience. In one myth about the end of Ra’s rule on Earth, Ra sends the goddess Hathor in the form of Sekhmet to destroy humans. After the battle, which Ra quickly realized had gotten out of hand, Sekhmet’s bloodlust could not be quelled. To stop her, Ra poured out beer dyed with either pomegranate juice or red ochre so that it resembled blood. She became so drunk that she gave up the slaughter.

Iconography

Sekhmet is depicted as a lioness or as a woman with the head of a lioness. Since she is a solar deity, she is depicted with a sun disk on her head and a uraeus, which associates her with Wadjet. She was often dressed in red, ie. the color of blood. Sometimes these dresses have a rosetta pattern over each breast, which is an ancient leonine motif that is traced to the observation of the shoulder knot hairs on lions. She is usually depicted holding a scepter in the form of papyrus, suggesting that she was associated primarily with the north. This is contradictory to the fact that she may have been associated with the south and the Sudan, where lions are much more plentiful.

When Sekhmet was in a calmer state, it was said she would take the form of the household cat goddess Bastet.

Worship

Again, even though she was, in general, a terrifying goddess, the ancient Egyptians believed that Sekhmet had a cure for every problem. To stay on her good side, they would offer her food and drink, play her music, and burn incense. They would also whisper prayers into the ears of cat mummies and offer them to Sekhmet.

Because she was closely associated with kingship, many kings in the New Kingdom worshiped her. Amenhotep II built almost 700 statues of her for his mortuary temple, as well as hundreds more for the temples in Karnak. Ramesses II also adopted Sekhmet as a symbol of his power in battle. During the Greek dominance of Egypt, there was a large temple of Sekhmet at Taremu in the Delta region in a city the Greeks called Leontopolis.

As I mentioned previously, Sekhmet was the main deity worshiped during the Festival of Intoxication, in which they recreate the Sekhmet’s drunkenness. I talked about this during a Fun Fact Friday post a couple of weeks ago!

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sekhmet#:~:text=In%20Egyptian%20mythology%2C%20Sekhmet%20(%2F,and%20led%20them%20in%20warfare.

https://egyptianmuseum.org/deities-sekhmet

https://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/sekhmet/

Image Sources

Gold cultic Aegis – Wikimedia Commons (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)

Gilded bier from the tomb of Tut – Wikimedia Commons (Hans Ollermann)

Temple of Kom Ombo – Wikimedia Commons

Image from Menat necklace – Wikimedia Commons (Keith Schengili-Roberts)

Statue from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg))

Statue from Temple of Mut Luxor at the National Museum, Copenhagen – Wikimedia Commons (McLeod)

Sekhmet – Wikimedia Commons (Jeff Dahl)

Sekhmet in the entrance of the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, Medinet Habu – https://www.arce.org/resource/statues-sekhmet-mistress-dread

Sekhmet statues in the British Museum – https://thatmuse.com/2019/11/01/sekhmet-the-destroyer/

Mummy Monday: Lady Rai

For this week’s Mummy Monday let’s look at another mummy found in the Deir el-Bahri cache, who may be one of the “most perfect examples of embalming…from the time of the early 18th Dynasty.” Let me introduce you to Lady Rai!

Life

Lady Rai was an ancient Egyptian woman from the early 18th Dynasty. Little is known about her life, but she served as a nursemaid to Queen Ahmose-Nefertari. We have no evidence of her parentage, but she was no doubt from some elite family as she was most likely buried in the elite burials in Deir el-Bahri and Thebes.

Tomb and Burial in DB320

Lady Rai’s original tomb is not known, but it was most likely looted in antiquity, which is why she was reburied in the cache in Deir el-Bahri. She was originally buried in two coffins, but it seems her outer coffin is all that was preserved. But Rai’s body was not found inside it.

It was common for the priests of the Third Intermediate Period to mix up coffins and the mummies in these caches. That is why many of the mummies have small linen dockets, which are just labels made from linen, which help identify the mummy. Lady Rai’s outer coffin (CG 61004) was used for the burial of Ahmose-Inhapi. The coffin’s gilding had been almost entirely removed, along with the eye inlays. But the robbers who stripped the coffin, who were probably the restorers, preserved the symbolic figure of Isis and Nephthys at the foot.

Lady Rai’s mummy was found in a 19th-20th Dynasty coffin (CG 61022) which was originally belonged to “a servant in the Palace of Truth,” named Paheripedjet. This title indicates that the original owner worked in Deir el-Medina, but it is unclear where this man’s body is currently.

The only personal belongings of Lady Rai that have been found was a single barrel-shaped carnelian bead on her right wrist. This is just a fraction of what Rai’s jewelry was before.

Mummy

As I mentioned previously, G. Elliot Smith called Lady Rai’s mummy one of the most perfect examples of 18th Dynasty embalming and “the least unlovely” of the existing female mummies. Smith unwrapped the mummy on June 26th, 1909. Rai was a slim woman only about 4 foot 11 inches. She was estimated to be about 30 or 40 years old when she died around 1530 B.C.E.

The mummy’s face and body had been thinly coated with resin mixed with sand. There was an embalming incision in the traditional position on the left side of the body, which was covered with a fusiform embalming plate, which was common for mummies of the 18th Dynasty. The body was carefully wrapped in linen bandages. Some of these bandages were inscribed with her name, which helped identify her.

Her scalp retained abundant amounts of what appears to be her own hair, not a wig, which would have been more common. This was styled in tightly plaited groups of braids down to her chest. Rai’s teeth only had slight wear. In 2009, the mummy was CAT scanned, which revealed that she had a diseased aortic arch and thus the oldest known mummy with evidence of atherosclerosis.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Rai

http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages1/Early18.htm

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

http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/17A.htm

Image Sources

Lady Rai profile – Wikimedia Commons (G. Elliot Smith)

Back of Lady Rai – http://www3.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/eos/eos_page.pl?DPI=100&callnum=DT57.C2_vol59&object=134

Mummy and Coffin – http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages1/Early18.htm

Women Crush Wednesday: Nina de Garis Davies

This week let’s look at another Egyptologist who specialized in illustrating and copying ancient Egyptian tomb paintings! Her name was Nina de Garis Davies.

Early Life

Nina was born Anna Machpherson Cummings on January 6th, 1881 in Salonika, Greece. She was the eldest of three daughters of Cecil J. Cummings, who was of English and Scottish ancestry. Her family returned to Aberdeen, Scotland with the death of her father in 1894. They then moved to Bedford where the girls went to private school. Nina showed considerable promise as an artist in her youth. It was so promising that her family moved to London for her training at the Slade School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London.

Norman and Nina de Garis Davies

In 1906, she went to visit a friend in Alexandria, Egypt, which is where she met her future husband Norman de Garis Davies. Norman was born in 1865 and studied theology at Glasgow University and Marburg University before working with Egyptologist Flinders Petrie at Dendera. He later became the head of the Egypt Exploration Fun’s Archaeological Survey and was an expert at interpreting Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Their house in Egypt, with Nina sitting on the front porch

Nina and Norman hit it off right away and were married in Hampstead, London on the 8th of October 1907. They settled in the Theban Necropolis and began documenting tomb paintings.

Life in Egypt

One of the first projects the couple worked on was for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York making facsimiles. They did this by tracing the tomb images and then replicating the brushstrokes and colors. In most cases, the copies reflected the actual scene, including any damage to the walls. In other cases, the drawings were rendered to look like they would have when the tomb was originally built thousands of years ago.

Technically, Norman was hired for this position, but Nina was also a part-time worker. Interestingly, most of the time it is difficult to differentiate Nina and Norman’s paintings. Nina signed her work Ni.deGD and Norman signed his pieces No.deGD. But others were signed N.dGD, which makes it entirely unclear.

Drawing by Norman of the various tombs in the Theban Necropolis

The tombs were located on the Nile’s west bank of western Thebes, which included the tombs of the officials, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, and the Deir el-Medina. It is one of the “richest sources of ancient Egyptian paintings preserved anywhere in Egypt.”

They started experimenting with color copying in Theban Tomb 45. Usually, copyists used watercolors, but one of their first assistants Francis Unwin suggested the use of tempera, which is a faster drying paint made with egg yolks. First, the artist does a pencil tracing against the wall and then painted the rest by eye.

Nina’s paintings were also recognized by another Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner, who acquired as many of her paintings as possible between 1909 and 1929. These were then published in two volumes of Ancient Egyptian paintings.

Nina with friends in her garden, including Rosalind Moss on the left

Nina is specifically credited for plates in publications of the Tomb of Amenemhet, Huy, and Ramose. She and her husband also worked for the Egypt Exploration Society and the Oriental Institute by documenting other Egyptian sites like Abydos and Amarna.

Later Life

Nina and Norman lived in a house in Qurna until 1939 when they moved back to England. They most likely left because of Norman’s age and the MMA policy. But their house was not emptied, implying that they may come back. Norman died in 1941 and Nina got to work organizing his objects, books, and papers. She reorganized the material for his publication of the Temple of Hibis in el-Kharga Oasis III. She then cataloged the textile collection of P.E. Newberry, aided Gardiner in editing Seven Private Tombs at Kurneh, and painted facsimiles of all sides of the box of Tutankhamun in 1962.

Nina died in 1965 but she lives on in her paintings, which help preserve and document the tombs of the Theban Necropolis.

Collections

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has 413 pieces by Nina and Norman de Garis Davies. 157 were painted by Nina, 15 have both their names, and 59 are signed by Norman.

The British Museum has 22 of Nina’s paintings which were donated in 1936 by Alan Gardiner. Some more of her paintings can be found here.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544567

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/548565

https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/barbering-tomb-of-userhat-nina-de-garis-davies/RQFu-xgT96y2kw?hl=en

Publications

Here are some of their publications:

  • Egypt Exploration Fund (Egypt); Nina Macpherson Davies; Norman de Garis Davies, Alan Henderson Gardiner (1915). The Theban Tombs Series. Edited by Norman de Garis Davies and Alan H. Gardiner.
  • Nina de Garis Davies; Sir Alan H. Gardiner (1923). Facsimiles of Theban Wall-paintings by Nina de Garis Davies Lent by Alan H. Gardiner. Victoria and Albert Museum.
  • Norman de Garis Davies (1901). The Rock Tombs of Sheikh Saïd. Sold at the Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
  • Norman de Garis Davies; Walter Ewing Crum; George Albert Boulenger (1902). The Rock Tombs of Deir El Gebrâwi: Tomb of the Aba and smaller tombs of the southern group. Sold at the offices of the Egypt exploration fund.
  • Norman de Garis Davies; Seymour de Ricci; Geoffrey Thorndike Martin (1906). The Rock Tombs of El-A̕marna: The tomb of Meyra. Sold at the Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
  • Norman de Garis Davies; Seymour de Ricci (1908). The Rock Tombs of El Amarna: Smaller tombs and boundary stelae.
  • Norman de Garis Davies; Seymour de Ricci; Geoffrey Thorndike Martin (1908). The Rock Tombs of El-A̕marna: The tomb of Meyra. Sold at the Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
  • Norman de Garis Davies (1911). Graphic Work of the Egyptian Expedition. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Norman de Garis Davies; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) (1911). The Rock-cut Tombs of Shiekh Abd El Qurneh, at Thebes. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Norman de Garis Davies (1913). Five Theban Tombs: (being Those of Mentuherkhepeshef, User, Daga, Nehemawäy and Tati). London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner.
  • Norman de Garis Davies (1917). The tomb of Nakht at Thebes. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Norman de Garis Davies; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). Egyptian Expedition (1933). The tomb of Nefer-hotep at Thebes. Arno Press.
  • Norman de Garis Davies (1920). An Alabaster Sistrum Dedicated by King Teta. Egypt Exploration Society.
  • Norman de Garis Davies; Alan Henderson Gardiner (1920). The Tomb of Antefoker, Visier of Sesostris I, and of His Wife, Senet. Allen & Unwin, under the auspices of the Egypt Exploration Society.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). Egyptian Expedition; Norman de Garis Davies (1918). The Egyptian Expedition, 1916-17. The Museum.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). Egyptian Expedition; Ambrose Lansing; Norman de Garis Davies, Hugh Gerard Evelyn-White (1920). The Egyptian Expedition, 1916-1919. The Museum.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.); Albert Frisch; Emery Walker, Nina De Garis Davies, Norman de Garis Davies (1925). Egyptian Wall Paintings from Copies by Norman de Garis Davies, Nina de Garis Davies and H.R. Hopgood. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

More of her publications can be found here:

https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=Davies%2C%20Norman%20de%20Garis%2C%201865%2D1941

http://giza.fas.harvard.edu/modernpeople/1626/full/

http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4daviest.html

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._de_Garis_Davies

https://www.brown.edu/Research/Breaking_Ground/results.php?d=1&first=Nina&last=Davies

https://www.brown.edu/Research/Breaking_Ground/bios/Davies_Nina.pdf

Image Sources

Norman and Nina, and another image of Nina – Brown

View of Theban cliffs by Norman – Wikimedia Commons

Tomb of Nakht by Norman and Nina – Wikimedia Commons