Mummy Monday: Nefrina

This week’s Mummy Monday has been the focus of a small museum in Pennsylvania for almost 90 years! Meet Nefrina, the mummy located at the Reading Public Museum in Reading Pennsylvania!


Nefrina (phonetically spelled Nfr-ii-n) was an Egyptian woman during the Ptolemaic Period of Ancient Egypt. Her name could be translated as, “May our comings be good,” or “It is a good thing that has come to us.” She lived in the town of Akhmin with her parents and brother, Nesmin. Her father’s name was Irethourrou (Irt-Hr-r-w) and he held honored titles as the keeper of the god’s wardrobe in the temple of the Egyptian god Min. That meant that he took care of dressing the cult statue, which was a ritual that needed to be done every day. Her mother’s name was Irtyrou (Ir(ty)-r-w) and she was a housemistress and a sistrum player for the god of Min.

It is not clear why Nefrina herself did not hold a title, but it can be presumed that she worked with her family in the temple of Min. She died when she was about 25 years old around 275 B.C.E.

Provenance and Display at the Reading Public Museum

The exact provenience of Nefrina is not known, but it is more than likely that she was buried in Akhmin. The University of Pennsylvania acquired her in 1839, though I could find no details on this transaction or if the mummy went on display within their museum.

In 1930, the University loaned the mummy to the Reading Public Museum, where Nefrina became a permanent installation in 1949 (1930.318.3). During her stay in Reading, she was x-rayed in 1972, CAT scanned in 2003, and received a facial reconstruction in 2006 by forensic artist Frank Bender, the results of which I will talk about below.

Here is a video about her original display at the Reading Public Museum called Nefrina’s World.

This past year, the original exhibit got some serious upgrades along with the rest of their Ancient Civilization Gallery. Installation started in early September of 2020 and was opened in late September. They worked with Egyptologist Melinda Hartwig from the Carlos Museum at Emory University on a special project. They created a hologram of Nefrina who welcomes visitors and tells the story of her life. Dr. Hartwig ensured that her appearance and narrative were historically accurate, and an actress was chosen based on her likeness from the facial reconstruction created in 2006.

Here is a series of short videos from Neo Pangea, the designers of the new Nefrina exhibit.

Coffin and Mask

The outside of the coffin of Nefrina

Nefrina is kept in one coffin which is painted black with a gold face. Text can be read along the legs of her coffin, which describes her family and includes spells to help her to the afterlife. The gold on her face is indicative of the Egyptian belief that the gods had the skin of gold. It is also an indicator of her family’s high status in Akhmin. This was an elaborate burial that was typical for the upper class.

The cartonnage on the mummy of Nefrina

On top of her mummy, there are several cartonnage pieces. These were typical of this era and were just an extra decorative and protective layer. They depict a broad collar, wedjats (eyes of Horus), the four sons of Horus, the goddess Nut, and other winged goddesses. There are also two depictions of a mummy sitting on a platform and a bed, which are supposed to depict her own coffin. A piece of cartonnage at her feet depict two feet wearing golden sandals, though there is damage in this area.

It is unclear when the wrappings around her face were unwrapped, but the mask used to be placed over these wrappings. Funerary masks were meant to be an idealized representation of the deceased and were usually made of cartonnage. In 2011, the mask was sent to the Penn Museum Conservation lab to be repaired and conserved. It had been stabilized for photography in 1993, but these masks are prone to damage because of the various layers of cartonnage. They stabilized and realigned the tears, compensated for the structural losses, and stabilized and filled any cracks. You can read more about the process here, here, and here.


As I said previously, the only portion of the mummy that is unwrapped is her face. But through x-rays and CT scans, scholars were able to determine that she mostly died from complications from a broken hip. She suffered from a right hip fracture which could be seen on the x-rays and CT scan. Interestingly, a poultice bag was inserted near the fracture site when she was mummified. This indicates that the wound was not healed when she died and that the bag was intended to heal her in the afterlife.

These scans also revealed that her organs were removed, mummified, and then packed into the torso. And she had false wooden ears, which is a rarity and not fully understood.

Again here is her facial reconstruction made in 2006.

Facial reconstruction of Nefrina


Image Sources

Reconstruction and mask – Mummipedia page

Photo of the old exhibit –

The new exhibit –

Conservation photos – Penn Museum Conservation Lab

Mummy –

Coffin and face – Reading Public Museum

Mummy Monday: Seqenenre Tao

We are back! Thank you all for the support during my two-week break. I am rested and prepped for a great 2021.

Our first candidate for Mummy Monday for the year needed to be big. And what is bigger than an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh who most likely died in battle and has the scars to prove it? This week we will be talking about Sequenenre Tao, otherwise known as the Brave.


Seqenenre Tao, also known as Seqenera Djehuty-aa, Sekenenra Taa, or Sequenenre Tao II (after his father), ruled over the last of the local Theban kingdom in the 17th Dynasty of the 2nd Intermediate Period. Seqenenre means “Who Strikes like Re,” and Tao means “brave,” which may have been a name given to him based on his bravery in life.

The center scribal palette in the image (currently located in the Louvre) is inscribed with the name of Seqenenre Tao

He was probably the son and successor of Senakhenre Ahmose and Queen Tetisheri. He would have risen to power either in 1560 to 1558 B.C.E. He had multiple wives including Ahmose Inhapy, Sitdjentui, and Ahhotep I. Through Ahmose Inhapy, he had a daughter Ahmose Henuttamehu, and through Sitdjehuti, he had another daughter named Ahmose. But it was Ahhotep I who bore the next two kings of Egypt, Seqenenre Tao’s sons Kamose and Ahmose I. She also gave birth to Ahmose Nefertari, Ahmose Meritamon, Ahmose Nebetta, Ahmose Tumerisy, Binpu, Ahmose Sapair, and Ahmose Henutemipet, many of whom were married to one of their brothers.

This jar lid (currently located at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, M.80.203.224) is inscribed with the name of Seqenenre Tao

His rule was anywhere from 5 to 3 years, so this left almost no time for monumental building. He did build a new mudbrick palace at Deir el-Ballas. When this site was excavated, a large amount of Kerma-ware pottery was found. Kerman Nubians either traded heavily with the Egyptians or were residents in the palace. This also may indicate that they were allied with the Egyptians in the upcoming battles.

Sometime during his reign, Seqenenre Tao came into contact with the Hyksos people in the north. They were most likely a Canaanite group that settled in the north during this period of instability. They lived in their capital of Avaris in the Delta. It looks like the Egyptians and the Hyksos met in a city called Apepi or Apophis. There is a tale written about this meeting that is called, “The Quarrel of Apophis and Seqenenre.” A portion of this tale is translated below.

“Give orders that the hippopotamus-pool which is in the flowing spring of the city be abandoned; for they (the voices of the hippos) do not allow deep sleep to come to me either by day or by night; but their noise is in mine ear.”

If this letter was actually sent, it is unclear. But the Hyksos king was obviously complaining about Seqenenre’s growing power. But it must be noted that this tale was written by the Egyptians, who notoriously would create propaganda to benefit their own rule. There is always the possibility that the Hyksos king had no quarrel with the Egyptians, but Seqenenre wanted a unified Egypt and chose to attack them.


Seqenenre Tao seemed to have actively participated in the war against the Hyksos, which may have led to his demise. Based on the injuries to his mummy (which I will describe below), Seqenenre Tao was most likely struck down in battle. He was probably around the age of 40 when he died.

Painting of a Queen Ahhotep I recovering her husbands body from the battlefield (Artist’s rendering; there is no evidence of this encounter.) By Winifred Mabel Brunton in 1915.

After Seqenenre Tao’s death, his son Kamose took the throne and continued to battle the Hyksos people. He may have also died in battle (though this is not for certain), but his brother Ahmose I then rose to the throne (after a possible regency of Ahhotep I) to finally defeat the Hyksos, end the Second Intermediate Period and 17th Dynasty and start the New Kingdom and the 18th Dynasty.

This battle axe of Ahhotep I depicts Ahmose I defeating a Hyksos in battle.


Although his tomb has not been found, it is presumed that Seqenenre Tao was buried in Dra Abu-el-Naga on the west bank from Thebes. This is where other 17th Dynasty rulers were buried, including the tomb of Ahhotep (still unclear if this was the I or the II).

According to the Abbot Papyrus (British Museum, 10211), which is a document that recorded tomb robberies during the 20th Dynasty, Seqenenre Tao’s tomb was still intact in Year 16 of Ramesses IX.

Image of some of the coffins found in the Deir el Bahri cache

Sometime after this, the tomb was robbed by looters, and in the 21st Dynasty, local priests relocated the coffin and the mummy to the Deir el-Bahri cache in DB320, which we have talked about multiple times. This cache was discovered in 1881 and contained the bodies of several famous kings of the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st Dynasties. Here is a list I have shown before of the mummies found in this cache:

  • Tetisheri
  • Ahmose Inhapy
  • Ahmose Henutemipet
  • Ahmose Henuttamehu
  • Ahmose Mertiamon
  • Ahmose Sipair
  • Ahmose Sitkamose
  • Ahmose I
  • Rai
  • Siamun
  • Ahmose Sitamun
  • Amenhotep I
  • Thutmose I
  • Baket (?)
  • Thutmose II
  • Iset
  • Thutmose III
  • Unknown man C
  • Ramesses I
  • Seti I
  • Ramesses II
  • Ramesses III
  • Ramesses IX
  • Pinedjem I
  • Nodjmet
  • Duathathor-Henuttawy
  • Maatkare
  • Masaharta
  • Tayuheret
  • Pinedjem II
  • Isetemkheb D
  • Neskhons
  • Djedptahiufankh
  • Nesitanebetashru
  • Unknown man E
  • 8 other unidentified mummies; funerary remains of Hatshepsut

As you can see, his mother, one of his wives, several of his daughters, and one of his sons were all moved here after their tombs had been looted. Check out my post on Nodjmet to learn more about the DB320 cache!


The mummy of Seqenenre Tao was found in its original coffin (CG 61001). This coffin was decorated with a royal uraeus and eye inlays, which were most likely removed by tombs robbers along with the majority of the gilding. But the inscriptions and symbolic elements have been preserved and even restored, possibly after the gilding was removed.


Mummy of Seqenenre Tao

The mummy of Seqenenre Tao (JE 2609/CG 61051) has captured a lot of attention over the years of its appearance. After the discovery of the cache in 1881, his mummy was partially unwrapped by Egyptologist Gaston Maspero on June 9th, 1886. It was completely unwrapped by Eugene Grebaut, who took office in the Antiquities Service after Maspero resigned in 1886, on September 1st, 1906. The mummy was also reexamined in the early 1900s by G. Elliot Smith.

By all indications, the mummy seems to have been hastily embalmed. His mummy is the worst preserved of all the mummies in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There was no attempt to remove the brain or add linen inside the cranium or eyes. His organs were removed, and the body packed with linen, but there was one thing done wrong – the heart was also removed. Now, this is against every Egyptian tradition. The Egyptians believed that the heart was the most important organ and that you thought with your heart. This was always left within the body to help in the afterlife. In some cases when the heart was removed, a heart scarab amulet was put in its place. While it is unclear why the heart was removed, there is the possibility that it was removed in an attempt to destroy him in the afterlife.

A “foul, oily smell filled the room the moment the case in which his body was exhibited was opened.” This is probably because of the poor embalming process and the absence of the use of natron salts to dry out the body, which left some of the bodily fluids in the mummy at the time of burial.

The mummy’s chest is also broken, and the ribs were hurriedly squeezed together by the embalmers and wrappers. His arms, legs, and vertebrae are also disarticulated, and the pelvis is in pieces. Worms were also found in the shroud and shells of beetle larvae in the king’s hair. This is another indication of a bad or quick mummification.

The Face of Seqenenre Tao with arrows pointing at the wounds to his face

The face of the mummy was what really cause speculation. It is very damaged, and his mouth is open, as some thought in horror. Multiple wounds cover the mummy’s face. There is a small cut above the eye, on the forehead, and a wound behind his ear.

Below is a description of the injuries given by Maspero.

“…it is not known whether he fell upon the field of battle or was the victim of some plot; the appearance of his mummy proves that he died a violent death when about forty years of age. Two or three men, whether assassins or soldiers, must have surrounded and dispatched him before help was available. A blow from an axe must have severed part of his left cheek, exposed the teeth, fractured the jaw, and sent him senseless to the ground; another blow must have seriously injured the skull, and a dagger or javelin has cut open the forehead on the right side, a little above the eye. His body must have remained lying where it fell for some time: when found, decomposition had set in, and the embalming had to be hastily performed as best it might.”

The back of the Head of Seqenenre Tao with an arrow showing the wound behind his ear

The wound to his forehead fits the shape of an Egyptian battle-axe while the wounds above the right eye and left check fit a Hyksos style battle-axe. His check and nose were smashed in. This may have been done with the blunt end of an axe or by a mace. The wound behind his ear was most likely made by a dagger or spear, possibly while Seqenenre was lying prone. There were no injuries found to his arms or hands, indicated that he was not able to defend himself. But there is some evidence that the wound behind his ear has begun to heal. This may indicate that this injury was caused in battle and then other injuries were made later, possibly in an assassination attempt.

This battle-axe (currently located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.80.203.43) is inscribed with the name of Seqenenre Tao. The original owner of this piece is unknown.

Until 2009, the main hypothesis was that Seqenenre Tao had died in battle or was assassinated in his sleep, before or after a battle. Egyptologist Garry Shaw and archaeologist/weapons expert Robert Mason reconstructed the death of the king and came up with an alternate theory. They suggested that Seqenenre Tao was executed by the Hyksos king after being captured. This may have been a ceremonial execution at the hands of the enemy commander.

Here you can read a fictionalized account of his death by Shaw, but you can also download his scholarly article on his findings below. Also, check out this video where Shaw and Mason recreate the injuries.

While I have not seen anything to corroborate this, I have a theory that aligns with Shaw and Mason’s theory of the ceremonial execution. If Seqenenre Tao was executed, his body would have been in enemy hands for an unknown amount of time. Maybe the Hyksos people attempted to mummify him?

This would explain why it was done so badly and why the heart was missing. This wasn’t them trying to ruin his chance in the afterlife, just a simple lack of knowledge of Egyptian mummification. They probably assumed that all the organs were removed.

Otherwise, his body may have been returned to his family and the priests just did an extremely quick mummification job. Just a theory, but it would be interesting to look into!


Image Sources

Photo of skull – Wikimedia Commons – G. Elliot Smith

Photo of mummy in case – Rawi Magazine

Photo of mummy – Egypt

Cartouches –

Photo of Coffin and mummy –

Photo of battleaxe – Wikimedia commons – LACMA (M.80.203.43)

Photo of scribal palette with his name (Louvre) – Wikimedia Commons – Rama

Jar lid with his throne name – Wikimedia Commons LACMA (M.80.203.224)

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).


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.


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!


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!


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

Reconstruction and CT scan –

Side view of reconstruction –

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

Head –

Images of Tomb – Getty Valley of the Queens PDF

Mummy Monday: Ramesses VI

Throughout Egyptian history, there were 11 pharaohs named Ramesses, all living during the New Kingdom. This week we are going to look at the mummy of Ramesses VI.


Ramesses IV Nebmaatre-Meryamun was born Amenherkhepsehf (C) to Ramesses III and most likely queen Iset Ta-Hemdjert. This is suggested by the presence of his cartouches on the door jamb of her tomb in the Valley of the Queens. As a prince, he held the titles of royal scribe and cavalry general. He was the 5th pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty, after his older brother Ramesses IV son, Ramesses V died without a male heir.

His Great Royal Wife was Nubkhesbed and they had at least four children: princes Amenherkhepshef, Panebenkemyt, and Ramesses Itamun (future pharaoh Ramesses VII) and one princess Iset. His first son died before his father and was buried in KV13 and his daughter was appointed as God’s Wife of Amun.

He only reigned for about 8 years (1145 to 1137 B.C.E) which may have been quite turbulent. Ramesses IV stopped frequent raids by Libyan or Egyptian marauders in Upper Egypt. But Egypt lost control of its last strongholds in Canaan, which weakened Egypt’s economy and increased prices throughout the kingdom. The pharaoh’s power also waned during this period as the priesthood of Amun began to rise in power. This is when Ramesses VI appointed his daughter as a priestess of Amun in an attempt to reduce their power.

There are multiple statues of him, many of which he usurped from past rulers by engraving his name over theirs. These usurpations were most likely done because of the economic depression rather than a sign of antagonism against his predecessors. One statue that was well documented on the reverse of the Turin Papyrus Map was installed in the Temple of Hathor at Deir el-Medina. It was called “Lord of the Two Lands, Nebamaatre Meryamun, Son of Re, Lord of Crowns, Ramesses Amunherkhepesef Divine Ruler of Iunu, Beloved like Amun.” The statue was apparently made out of both painted wood and clay, showing the pharaoh wearing a golden loincloth, a crown of lapis lazuli and precious stones, a uraeus of gold, and sandals of electrum.

Ramesses VI died in his 40s, in the 8th or 9th year of his rule. He was succeeded by his son Ramesses VII Itamun. Besides his tomb (described below), it is also thought that he usurped his nephew’s mortuary temple in El-Assasif, Thebes (which was probably stolen from Ramesses IV). It was planned to nearly half the size of Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II. But only the foundations were built at the death of Ramesses IV so it is unclear if it was ever completed.


The outside of the Tomb

Now presumably because Ramesses VI was older when he rose to power, he chose to usurp his nephew’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, KV9. It is unclear if Ramesses V was first buried in this tomb and then moved, or if Ramesses VI buried his nephew somewhere else. Unlike his usurpation of his predecessors’ cult statues, this usurpation could have been because he did not hold his nephew in high regard. It was most likely completed in the 6th or 8th year of his reign.

Layout of KV9

The tomb is 104 meters or 341 feet long and has several chambers. The entrance of the tomb is decorated with a disk containing a scarab and an image of the ram-headed god Re between Isis and Nephthys. In the first corridor, there are images of Ramesses VI before Re-Horakhty and Osiris.

Ramesses VI worshipping Osiris above the entrance to the hallway

The Book of Gates is on the south wall while the Book of Caverns is on the north wall. These are both Ancient Egyptian funerary texts that would help the newly deceased soul into the afterlife. The Book of Gate describes several gates, each associated with different goddesses and required the deceased to recognize the particular character of the diety. The Book of Caverns is very similar, but it describes six caverns of the afterlife which are filled with rewards for the righteous and punishments for the bad.

The ceiling of the long hallway is decorated with an intricate astronomical ceiling. The Book of the Gates and the Book of Caverns continued on their respective walls. Above the entrance to the next corridor, the king is shown before Osiris. The second corridor is decorated with two more funerary texts: the Book of the Imi-Duat and the Books of Day and Night. Here Ramesses is shown before Hekau and Maat.

At the end, there is a hall and the burial chamber. Again, these are decorated with more funerary texts, mainly the Book of the Dead and the Book of the Earth (also known as the Book of Aker). Ramesses was buried in a large granite coffin box and mummiform stone sarcophagus in the center of the chamber.

Unfortunately, like many of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, it was looted in antiquity, most likely around 20 years after Ramesses VI was buried. They took everything and destroyed much of the sarcophagus and mummy. The mummy was removed from the tomb in the 21st Dynasty. Interestingly, the workers huts that were built for the construction of this tomb, obscured the entrance to the tomb of King Tutankhamun, which may have been a reason that it was not seriously looted during this period.

Check out the tour of the tomb completely 3D tour of the tomb here and here! You can also see more images of the tomb decoration here.

In the Graeco-Roman Period, the tomb was identified as that of Memnon, the mythological king of the Ethiopians who fought in the Trojan War. This meant that it was frequently visited during this time. Visitors from the 1st century B.C.E. to the 4th century C.E. left approximately 995 pieces of graffiti. These were mostly in Greek, Latin, Demotic, and Coptic, and in black or red ink. Many of these were found higher up on the walls, indicating that the floor level was higher during this period. Since 1996, the graffiti has been studied by the Epigraphic Mission from the Polish Center of the Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw. Check out the article below to learn more!

The tomb was cleared by Georges Emile Jules Daressy in 1898. He uncovered the fragments of the coffin and sarcophagus. During this time, the face, and several other pieces, of the sarcophagus were taken by visitors. The face (EA140), which was taken by Giovani Belzoni, Italian strongman turned explorer, for Henry Salt, the British consulate in Cairo, is currently in the British Museum, and attempts to return it to Egypt have been futile.

In 1997, Egyptologist Edwin Brock received funding from the American Research Center in Egypt to restore the sarcophagus. They completed the work in three seasons reassembling the 370 broken pieces and a fiberglass replica of the mask. Much of the decoration of the coffin had been obscured by a black resinous layer which was most likely a ritualistic oil that was poured over the sarcophagus at the time of burial. The reassembled sarcophagus is currently on display inside the burial chamber.

Burial in Royal Cache

Now, like many of the royal mummies of the New Kingdom, the mummy of Ramesses VI was not found in KV9, but in KV35, also known as the Royal Cache. Here is an excerpt about this tomb that I wrote in an earlier post about Amenhotep III.

The priests of Amon in the 21st dynasty moved multiple mummies from the looted Valley of the King’s tombs to one specific tomb in the valley. This was the tomb of Amenhotep II, KV35. The mummy cache lay undiscovered until 1898. Here is a list of the other pharaohs found in this cache:

  • Thutmose IV
  • Merneptah
  • Seti II
  • Siptah
  • Amenhotep II
  • Amenhotep III
  • Ramesses IV
  • Ramesses V
  • Ramesses VI
  • Queen Tiye (originally labeled and the Elder Lady)
  • A prince (either Webensenu, child of Amenhotep II, or Thutmose, son of Amenhotep III)
  • The Younger Lady (mother of Tutankhamun, and daughter of Amenhotep and Tiye)
  • Unknown Lady D
  • Two skulls and an arm

The mummy of Ramesses VI (CG 61086/JE 34564) was found in side chamber Jb inside an 18th dynasty coffin (CG 61043) of a man named Re, who was a high priest of the mortuary cult of Menkheperre-Thutmose III. Ramesses VI’s name had been written over the original owner’s name. The face of the coffin had been hacked off in antiquity, possibly indicating that it had been gilded and thus taken by tomb robbers.


When the mummy was unwrapped by G.E. Smith on July 8th, 1905, the body was found in disarray. It apparently had been hacked to pieces by the tomb robbers who were looking for precious jewelry. The head had been shattered and the bones of the face were missing. His hip bone and pelvis were found among the bones at his neck and his elbow and humerus were discovered on his right thigh. Bones from two other mummies were also found including the right hand of an unidentified woman and the right hand and forearm of an unidentified man.

Ramesses VI was embalmed in a fashion similar to his two predecessors. The cranial cavity had been packed with linen and a resin paste, which was also plastered over the face, eyes, and forehead. The king’s ears had also been pierced and his teeth were only moderately worn. And due to the presence of a skull piercing similar to those found on the skulls of Ramesses IV, Ramesses V, Merenptah, and Seti II, it has been speculated that Ramesses VI had originally been moved to the KV14 cache along with those mummies before being finally placed in KV35.

The Face of Ramesses VI


Photo Credits

Face of Stone Sarcophagus – British Museum; Wikimedia Commons (Carlos Teicxidor Cadenas)

Relief of Ramesses VI as a prince from Medinet Habu – Wikimedia Commons (Neithsabes)

Statue of Ramesses VI holding a bound Libyan captive, currently in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo – Wikimedia Commons (Georges Legrain)

Portrait of Ramesses VI from his tomb – Wikimedia Commons (Champollion and Rosellini)

Broken bust of Ramesses IV at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon – Wikimedia Commons (Colindla)

Mummy face– Wikimedia Common (G. Elliot Smith)

Mummy body – Mummipedia (Tawfika)

Ushabtis of Ramesses VI at the British Museum – Wikimedia Commons (Jack1956)

Reassembled lid, cleaning the fragments, the glued fragments groups, Brock checking the joins – Francis Dzikowski

Test cleaning of the sarcophagus – Edwin Brock

Images of Tomb – Madain Project

Mummy in coffin –

Picture of 18th dynasty coffin –

Tomb Layout –

Mummy Monday: “Usermontu” ?

This week, both Monday and Wednesday’s posts have a slight medical theme. Today we are going to talk about a mummy at the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose, California. He has been known as Usermontu, but that was most likely not his name.

The Provenance of the Mummy

The original provenience of the mummy is completely unknown. In 1971, two sarcophagi were purchased by one of the Marcus brothers, the owners of the store Neiman-Marcus, then primarily located in Texas. They were most likely purchased in England and then sent to their store in Bal Harbor, Texas. At the time, the sarcophagi were both sealed and no one knew about the mummy that lied within.

The two coffins offered in the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue of 1971. Left, the coffin of Irturu, and right, the coffin of Usermontu, with the unknown mummy.

The two sarcophagi appeared in the 1971 Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog in a section called “His and Her Gifts for People who Have Everything.” The Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose purchased the coffins for $16,000. As the pieces were being shipped out, a worker heard one of the coffins rattling and discovered the mummy inside the coffin of Usermontu. Apparently, Mr. Marcus was afraid of breaking a law for transporting human remains, so they may have obtained a death certificate for the mummy before it was sent to California.

The Sarcophagus

The coffin of Usermontu, in the display in the Rosicrucian Museum. The coffin next to it happens to belong to a relative of Usermontu, Ta’awa-Sherit.

The coffin (RC-1777) was made for a man named Usermontu, which means “Powerful is Montu.” He probably lived in the 26th Dynasty of the Third Intermediate Period. Titled as a priest of Montu and Lord of Thebes, he was the son of Besenmut and a close relative (probably cousin) of Ta’awa-Sherit. (Her coffin is also located at the Rosicrucian Museum.) This family is well known and powerful during the turmoil of the Saite Period in the 26th Dynasty.

The other coffin (RC-1778) belonged to a person named Irturu and was probably also made in the 3rd Intermediate Period. It is unclear where the mummy that this coffin was made for ended up.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the original provenience of these two coffins. This of course complicates as to who the mummy was in the coffin and why he was placed in this coffin.

The Mummy Itself

The mummy (RC-1779) was placed inside this coffin at an unknown time, but most likely after the real Usermontu was buried. This mummy was found completely naked, except for a small piece of linen around the wrist. (When it arrived in California, it was wrapped with contemporary linen.) This piece of linen dates to 400 B.C.E., which is neither in the New Kingdom nor the Third Intermediate Period, indicating it may date to the reburial of the mummy into the coffin.

Based on the embalming method, he is believed to have lived during the New Kingdom of Egypt, which is the period before the Third Intermediate Period, when the coffin was made. There is, unfortunately, no clue as to where the mummy originally came from, though there are some indications of his identity. In life, he may have been a natural redhead and was around 5 feet tall. The red hair may indicate that he was part of the Ramesside family, who had a history of redheads. His arms were also crossed over his chest, which was a typical pose for royal mummies.

Unfortunately, nothing else is known about his identity. Check out this 3D model of the mummy and listen for more information!

The Orthopedic Implant

In 1995, BYU professor, C. Wilfred Griggs performed some x-rays scans on six mummies in the Rosicrucian Museum in preparation for a lecture. He wanted to analyze some of the artifacts so he could add a local viewpoint to his talk on the application of science and technology in archaeological fieldwork, which turned out to be a lucky break! It was discovered that “Usermontu’s” mummy had a 9 inch (23 cm) iron-made orthopedic screw inside his left knee. It was originally thought to have been inserted in modern times to attach his lower leg.

The scholars examining the mummy found in the coffin of Usermontu

Griggs received permission to unwrap the leg to examine it further. An orthopedic surgeon and chief of radiology were asked to consult on the mummy. They carefully drilled a hole into the bone to allow access for a tiny camera to examine the pin and to extract samples of the bone and the metal. When drilling, the specialist found wetness inside the bone. This was most likely due to the drill bit generating enough heat to melt the resinous glue. They found traces of organic resin, possibly made out of cedar, traces of ancient fats and textiles.

The x-ray of the left knee of the mummy found in the coffin of Usermontu

The pin was created with the same design used today to create bone stabilizations. It tapers into a corkscrew as it enters the femur or the thigh bone. And the other end is in the tibia and has three flanges extending outward from the core of the pin that prevents rotation of the pin inside the bone. This is the first case of a metal orthopedic implant in a mummy.

The screw was most likely inserted after the mummy’s death and before his burial. It was held in place with an organic resin, which is similar to modern bone cement. This was most likely done because the leg had become detached during the mummification process. It would ensure the integrity of the body which was required for the ancient Egyptian afterlife.


Photo Sources

Mummy and Coffins – Roscrucian Museum

Mummy in case – Flickr (Will Scullin)

Mummy in case – Wikimedia Commons (Oleg Alexandrov)

X-Ray – Mummipedia

3D scan –

Picture of Scholars in the Mummy – BYU Magazine

Photo of coffin in case –

Mummy Monday: Sesheshet

This week we are going to take a look at a burial from the Old Kingdom! Let’s look at the mother of King Teti, Sesheshet.


Very little is known about Sesheshet, sometimes known as Sesh. We do know that she was the mother of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Her husband’s name is unknown, but it unlikely that he was of royal blood. The last king of the 5th Dynasty, Unas, most likely died without an heir. But one of his daughters, Iput, married Teti, who them succeeded his father-in-law. It has been implied that Sesheshet had a significant role in arranging this marriage and thus enabled her son to gain the throne.

Very little is known about Sesheshet, sometimes known as Sesh. We do know that she was the mother of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Her husband’s name is unknown, but it unlikely that he was of royal blood. The last king of the 5th Dynasty, Unas, most likely died without an heir. But one of his daughters, Iput, married Teti, who them succeeded his father-in-law. It has been implied that Sesheshet had a significant role in arranging this marriage and thus enabled her son to gain the throne.

She is also referred to in the Ebers Papyrus, currently at the University of Leipzig, in Germany. In this papyrus, there was a medical recipe to cure baldness.

“Another remedy to make the hair grow, prepared for Shesh, the mother of his Majesty, The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Teti the justified.”

It is unclear if this recipe was made because the Queen was losing her hair or if the recipe was created at her request. For those curious, the cure for baldness is apparently, the claw of a dog, the hoof of a donkey and some boiled dates, though it is unclear what you were supposed to do with those ingredients!

For several other Egyptian cures for baldness, click here.

According to Manetho, a Late Egyptian priest who wrote about the history of the Egyptian pharaohs, Teti was murdered by his bodyguards in a harem plot, possibly by the usurper and next pharaoh Userkare. Though there is little evidence to back up this story, some have speculated that Sesheshet would have helped her son against the conspirators, but after her death, they defeated Teti.


Again, we know very very little about Sesheshet. But remarkably her tomb and burial have been found.

On November 8th, 2008, the Supreme Council of Antiquties announced that they found Sesheshet’s pyramid in Saqqara. It was a subsidiary pyramid of her son Teti’s complex. The site had been excavated since 2006 and the pyramid was found in September 2008 under 7 meters of sand, a small shrine and mudbrick walls from later periods. The pyramid was not entered until January 2009.

A picture of the excavation. The pyramids in the distance are those of Teti, Userkaf, and the Step Pyramid of Djoser in the far back.

I will note that there is some conflicting data on whose pyramid this was. The Council announced that the pyramid was Sesheshet’s, but there are no inscriptions in the pyramid to prove this to be so. Some other articles mention that there was evidence within the pyramid, but do not elaborate. I believe that Sesheshet is the most likely candidate, as two other pyramids have already been identified as those of Teti’s wives.


The pyramid is now topless (currently 5 meters or 16 feet tall) but was most likely 14 meters or 46 feet tall when complete. It may have actually been Saqqara’s most complete subsidiary pyramid, as many of these were not completed. The base was 22 meters or 72 feet on all sides and the walls sloped at a 51 degree angle. The substructure of the pyramid was 19 meters underground.

Although I could not find a complete consensus from my sources, I believe the pyramid was found next to Teti’s Pyramid and the pyramids of his wives, Iput and Khiut. The other pryamids were found around 100 years ago and in 1994.

Sesheshet’s Pyramid is most likely north of #8, the Pyramid of Queen Iput. No map that included the new pyramid could be found.

The burial chamber was 22 meters long and 4 meters wide and a large granite sarcophagus was found inside. It had no inscriptions and the lid had two pinholes to secure it. The lid may have been around 6 tons (though other sources say the entire sarcophagus was that much). It took five hours for the lid to be lifted by the excavators.

Unfortunately, there was a vertical shaft from the top of the pyramid that was made by tomb robbers, so the excavators were not expecting much. The pyramid was mostly looted, but some treasures lay within the chamber and the sarcophagus.

According to some sources, the following items were found in the tomb: vessels made of alabaster and red clay, tools lacquered in gold, and canopic jars, possibly still holding the organs of the King’s Mother.


Within the sarcophagus were the presumed remains of Sesheshet. Although her body may have been properly mummified when she died, the looters and time had tainted the body. A skull, legs, and pelvis were found, with bits of linen. Looters most likely took off the linen in search for gold or precious stone amulets or jewelry.

Though they were not able to take everything, as gold was found that would have covered the fingers of the deceased. If only I had a picture!

I know this wasn’t the most interesting Mummy Monday, but I wanted to try and move away from the later portion of Egyptian history, when the majority of the preserved mummies date to.


Photo Sources

Photos of the excavation – Mohamed Magahed

Picture of Teti Pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (Wknight94)

Teti Pyramid plan – Wikimedia Commons (Malyszkz)

Map of area –

Other Map –

Ebers Papyrus, Mummy photos – Judith Weingarten Blog

Mummy Monday: Wah

This week, let’s look at the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and the mummy of an official named Wah! He, and the contents of his tomb, are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


Wah was born around 2005 B.C.E. in the Upper Egyptian province of Waset, which is the ancient name for the city of Thebes. This was the capital of Egypt at the time under Nebhepetre Mentihotpe, who was the founder of the Middle Kingdom. In the years before Wah’s birth, the country was separated and thought to be very chaotic. But he was born into an era of peace and prosperity.

Scribes from a model of Meketre (20.3.11)

Early in Wah’s life, he began studying as a scribe. Scribal training usually began around the age of six or seven and was quite an elite profession. This was a long, painstaking process that was accomplished by copying standard religious texts, famous literary works, songs, and poetry. Scribes would learn both the monumental hieroglyphic script and an informal cursive text, hieratic. He would have had to memorize hundreds of signs and learn how to mix ink and make brushes from reeds.

After Wah had been sufficiently trained, he went to work on the estate of Meketre. Meketre was a wealthy Theban government official who eventually rose to the position of treasurer of the king. He would have owned a lot of lands that needed scribes keeping accounts and writing letters. Funnily enough, Meketre’s tomb was full of models of daily life, that including scribes keeping records of a variety of activities.

Model Granary from the Tomb of Meketre (20.3.11)

Wah eventually became an overseer, or manager, of the storerooms on the estate. He probably oversaw “the output of all of the artisanal shops, as well as the storage of agricultural produce, the paying of taxes, and the doling out of wages in grain, cloth, and other products for work done on the estate.”


Wah was buried in the southern Asasif cemetery on the west side of the Nile from the city of Thebes. The tomb is labeled as MMA 102, as it was excavated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s team in 1920. The tomb was discovered while cleaning the portico of the tomb of Meketre, Wah’s boss.

The wall of the tomb of Wah

A rough step to the tomb was discovered hidden by shale chips. The door to the tomb had been blocked with bricks, indicating that it hadn’t been opened since the burial. The tomb was simply a roughly cut, undecorated corridor. The majority of the finds from this tomb (and the tomb of Meketre) were given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the division of finds.

The view into the tomb of Wah

Contents of Tomb

The tomb was modestly filled with some of his possessions and offerings. Small loaves of conical bread (20.3.265-.268), models of food offerings (20.3.259-.264), a jar of beer (20.3.256a-c), and a right foreleg of beef (20.3.258a-d) were placed near his coffin. A mirror (20.3.208), a headrest (20.3.207), a pair of wooden sandals (20.3.9a-b), and three wooden staffs (20.3.204-6) were also found. Some of these were found within the coffin itself.

One wooden statuette of Wah was found (20.3.210). This was intended to serve as a home for Wah’s spirit and depicts him as a young man. The statue was wrapped in linen around the waist. This may intimate the type of long skirt wore by Middle Kingdom officials. Beneath the linen is a carved short kilt that is painted white.

Wah’s coffin (20.3.202a-b) was made of coniferous wood, possibly imported cedar, and painted yellow. Offering texts were written on the lid and around the upper edge of the box. These “spells” would allow for safe passage into the afterlife and offerings for the deceased. A pair of eyes were also painted at the head end of the coffin’s left side. This was customary during the Middle Kingdom, as it was thought to allow the deceased to look outside the coffin and “see” his possessions and offerings. For these types of coffins, the mummies were laid so that their faces lined up with the eyes.

The offering spell on the lid of the coffin of Wah (reading from right to left).
The eyes of the coffin of Wah

Possessions of Wah

The funerary mask (40.3.54) of was could be see through the layers of linen but is actually quite large. It covered the entire chest and back of the mummy. The face of the mask is covered in gold foil, indicating his high position. The face is quite small and pinched. The mustache and beard are well painted, and the beard was enlarged with a piece of wood jutting down from the chin. He is wearing a striped headcloth which conceals short sideburns and his natural hairline. The chest of the mask is painted with a broad or wesekh, collar made of different beads. If you remember from my Fun Fact Friday last week, the colors of the mask represent the Egyptian thought that the skin of the gods was gold and their hair was lapis lazuli.

All of the jewelry of Wah was found on his mummy, which was carefully unwrapped and documented in 1940. I’ll talk about that process below, but let’s first go through the jewelry found.

Four beaded necklaces were found around the neck of the mummy under the layer after the funerary mask was removed. These included a necklace made with beads of a variety of shapes and materials (40.3.16), gold beads (40.3.17), blue faience beads (40.3.18), and silver beads (40.3.19). The majority of these were probably worn by Wah during his lifetime but may have been restrung for his burial, as the beads show wear and tear, but the strings do not.

Another necklace of blue faience beads (40.3.15) was found in a lower level of the wrappings. Three scarab bracelets were also found in this layer. The scarab was a relatively new invention in the time of Wah, as they began to appear in the middle of the 1st intermediate period, only a century earlier. The first was a simple scarab and bead bracelet (40.3.14). This scarab has a simple oval shape with only a few deep lines on the back to indicate the head and wings and on the sides to indicate the legs of the beetle.

The other two bracelets are of exceptionally fine workmanship, both being made of silver. The scarab on 40.3.13 had interlocking spirals and three hieroglyphs carved on the base. The head of this scarab is damaged, which was a tradition during burials to magically “kill” the beetle.

The second silver scarab (40.3.12) was cast in sections and soldered together. Details of the legs, head, wing cases, and the scroll meander pattern were all carved. There is an electrum suspension tube that runs the length of the scarab to allow it to be strung. The hieroglyphs on the back of the scarab’s wings are inlaid electrum, which is an alloy of gold and silver. The inscription on the left-wing has Wah’s name and his title of the overseer of the storehouse. And the inscription on the right-wing contains the name of his employer, Meketre, who presumably could have had this made for Wah.  

Funerary Broad-Collar of Wah, (40.3.2)

The broad collar (40.3.2) of Wah was found in the lowest level of his wrappings. The necklace was tied around his neck and is one of the finest examples of its type from the Middle Kingdom. It is made up of diminishing length faience beads to create the curved form. The layers of the wrappings and the careful unwrapping of the mummy helped preserve the collar with almost all of its original stringing.

Four bracelets (40.3.3-.5) and four anklets (40.3.7-.10) made out of faience were also found in this layer, laid over the lower arms and legs.

Left, the seweret bead (40.3.1) and right, the scarab ring (40.3.11), with one of the necklace of Wah.

The final pieces of jewelry found were small amulets and a ring. A seweret bead (40.3.1) was found clutched in the mummy’s left hand. The bead was made out of carnelian and strung on a small piece of cord, supposedly to make it into a ring. These amulets were typically placed at the throat of the mummy, so it is unclear why it was placed on his hand. And finally, a scarab ring (40.3.11) with little or no decoration was found in the wrappings over the mummy’s wrists.

The Mummy

Some of the pieces of linen from the burial of Wah that are on display at the MET.

Wah was buried in hundreds of yards of linen, which was customary for the burial of someone with his important position. Multiple different possessions were found within the wrappings of the mummy. In 1939, x-rays of the mummy revealed the presence of jewelry beneath the linen wrappings. While this is not done anymore, the MET decided the unwrap the mummy to document the Egyptian mummification and wrapping process and also obtain the jewelry. Then they would re-wrap the mummy and make a faithful replica of the complete mummy. This was done in 1940 and heavily documented.

He was wrapped in approximately 500 yards of linen. Some of these pieces had been folded into long pads or mattresses for the bottom of the coffin, while the majority were wrapped around the mummy. The outermost piece of linen (20.3.203a) was at one point dyed red, though it had faded over time. Red-dyed linen had been mentioned in multiple ancient texts, though actual examples are rare. This piece contained a line of hieroglyphs that said, “Linen of the temple protecting Nytankhsekhmet, the justified.” It is not known who this woman was and what her relationship was with Wah.

The conservators and art historians who unwrapped Wah took photos throughout the process. After the outer layer was removed, a layer of bandages with very thin dregs of a pot of resin was found. This was probably smeared over the body with an incantation for Wah’s journey to the afterlife. After more layers and the funerary mask, there was another layer of thick and black resin poured over the body, but not the head or face.

The mummification process wasn’t the best as linen resin swabs, a mouse, a house lizard, and cricket were all found within the layers of linen, typically stuck in the resin. That means that the body was probably left for the resin to dry before wrapping another layer.

Corner of a piece of linen, labeled “Wah” (40.3.38)

In total, there were about 845 square meters of linen in the tombs. Interestingly, many of the pieces of linen were labeled in the corners. 11 sheets were labeled with Wah’s name, like this corner seen here (40.3.38), while the rest bore different names. Some others were dated with Years 2, 5, and 6, of an unknown ruler. Many of these corners were torn off when the body was buried, but the corners were still wrapped up with the mummy.

This is a complete hypothesis on my part, but these sheets may have belonged to multiple workers on Meketre’s estate and were labeled so they could be returned to the proper person after being cleaned. And they were donated for the burial of Wah, which is why only some of them are labeled for him and the other names were attempted to be removed.

Wah was about 30 years old when he died. His body had undergone primitive mummification. His brain and upper viscera were left in place, while the organs of his lower abdomen were removed. He was nearly six feet tall, which was much taller than the average Egyptian. There is evidence that he injured both of his feet at some point in his life. Because of his job as an overseer, he could maintain quite a sedentary lifestyle to avoid pain in his feet. But as a result of this, he became obese. This was of course a sign of great prosperity and wealth but may have factored into his death.


Photo Sources

Photos of objects, jewelry – The MET

Black and white photos of the tomb, tomb outline – The MET Bulletin Summer 2002, 17.

Objects from Meketre’s tomb – The MET

Photos of the unwrapping – “The Mummy of Wah Unwrapped” by Henry Winlock

Mummy Monday: Psusennes I

This week we are going back to a royal mummy, Psusennes I. If you could believe it, his tomb is the only pharaonic tomb that has ever been found completely unscathed by any tomb-robbing!


Psusennes I was the third pharaohs of the 21st dynasty, which is the 3rd Intermediate Period. He ruled for approximately 1047 to 1001 B.C.E. The Greek version of his name is Pasikhanu or Pasebakhaenniut. His name means “The Star Appearing in the City.” Egyptian kings had multiple names, called a titulary. His throne name, Akheperre Setepenamun meant “Great at the Manifestations of Ra, chosen of Amun.” Read more about his royal titulary here.

  • Horus name: Kanakhtemawyamen Userfau Sekhaemwaset
  • Nebty name: Wermenuemipetsut
  • Golden Falcon name: Zemakheperu-derpedjetpesdjet
  • Prenomen: Aakheperre
  • Nomen: Pasebakhenniut

He was the son of Pinedjem I and Henuttawy, Ramses XI’s daughter. If you remember, Pinedjem I and his wife were found in the royal cache in Deir el-Bahari, which I talked about with Queen Nodjmet. Psusennes I most likely married his sister Mutnodjmet and had several children. He most likely had two sons, Pharaoh Amenemope and General Ankhefenmut, both of which were meant to be buried with their father. Ankhefenmut may have fallen into disgrace as his name was excised from the inscriptions in his burial chamber and his mummy was not found. Psusennes I may have also had a daughter name Esemkhebe, who married one of the Theban High Priests, Menkheperre. There is also evidence that he may have also been married to a Lady Wiay.

Tanis, seen here in the eastern delta region

It isn’t completely clear, but he most likely ruled from anywhere to 41, 46, or 51 years. During the 21st dynasty, the capital city was Tanis, which was located in the eastern Nile Delta. He was responsible for turning Tanis into a full-fledged capital city. Psusennes I built enclosure walls and a central portion of the Great Temple at Tanis, which was dedicated to Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. There was also a sanctuary dedicated to Amun, which was composed of blocks salvaged from the ruins of Pi-Ramesses, just south of Tanis. Many of these blocks were unaltered and kept the name of Ramses II, including pieces of obelisks.

The Temple complex at Tanis. You can see the tombs of Psusennes I and others on the right.

During his reign, he adopted the title of High Priest of Amun, which was an unprecedented move. This may have been done to assert the Pharaoh’s authority over the Theban priests. His wife/sister Mutnodjmet also adopted the titles of the female counterpart of the High Priest of Amun. At Tanis, he built temples to the Theban deities to provide an alternative center for worship for the gods and therefore break the High Priests power.

Even though the 3rd Intermediate Period was described as one of chaos and disorder, Psusennes I was able to amass a large amount of gold, silver, and precious stones for his burial, indicating that this period may have been more prosperous than previously thought. He sought to emphasize the continuity between his reign and that of his predecessors as his tomb harbored many objects from earlier periods.

Discovery at Tanis

The tomb from the outside

French Egyptologist Pierre Montet excavated the tombs at Tanis from 1929 to 1940. Psusennes I was found in tomb no. 3 or NRT III. This tomb contained several kings from the 21st and 22nd dynasties. In total, it contained the following:

  • Psusennes I
  • His wife Mutnodjmet
  • His son, Pharaoh Amenemope
  • His son General Ankhefenmut
  • Siamun
  • Pharaoh Psusennes II
  • Pharaoh Shoshenq II
  • General Wendkebaundjed

The tomb contained five chambers. Montet found Shoshenq II, Siamun, and Psuennes II in the antechamber of the tomb. Chamber 1 was hidden behind these burials and contained the intact burial of Psusennes I. His wife Mutnodjmet was supposed to be buried in chamber 2, but her sarcophagus was found to contain the body of their son and the next king Amenemope. Chamber 3 contains the empty coffin of their son, General Ankhefenmut. And finally, chamber 5 contained General Wendkebaundjed, which wasn’t found until 1946.

Left to right: Pharaoh Psusennes I, Pharaoh Amenemope, and Pharoah Shoshenq II

The tomb was originally found on March 18th, 1939, and it was opened three days later to an audience that included the current Egyptian King, Farouk I. But although the tomb’s inscriptions mentioned Psusennes I, the first coffin that was found was Shoshenq II.

Unfortunately, what should have been a well-planned and carefully considered archaeological excavation turned into a hurried salvage operation because World War II was about to break out. Only the front portion of the tomb was excavated. The objects were transported to Cairo for safekeeping and Montet and his family returned to Europe. This is why there are very few original photos from the discovery of the tomb.

On February 15, 1940, after Montet was allowed to resume excavations, he discovered the corridor to Psusennes I’s chamber. He had spent the last few months excavating through the other chambers of the tomb, which had been previously plundered. On this day, he found the corridor which was sealed with a single granite plug made from a section of an obelisk of Ramses II. For six days his workmen chipped away the block and opened the chamber. Here is saw the treasures of Psusennes I.

In 1939, Montet had asked the Egyptian authorities for all-around security, because he knew this tomb was quite valuable. During WWII, unfortunately, this security could not be maintained, so by 1943, thieves were able to break into both the home and storage of the archaeologists and a safe in the Cairo Museum, where some jewelry had been stored. They stole many statuettes from the storage and some of the jewelry from the safe. Luckily, the majority of the jewelry was found, but some of the elements of the necklaces are still missing.

Tanis is a particularly moist environment, so the perishable wooden objects were destroyed by groundwater. Still, the entire tomb contained nearly 600 objects, all currently located at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

Tomb Contents

The shabtis of the king were found in two very even piles. They had originally been placed into two wooden cases, which had completely decayed over time, without disturbing the order of the shabtis inside. In the northern pile, there were 23 overseer shabtis and 154 workers. And in the southern pile, there were 21 overseers and 171 workers. Shabtis were servants for the afterlife. Because the Egyptians believed that the afterlife was exactly like real life, but with the gods, they would still need servants to take care of their house and their fields. Egyptians who were particularly rich, they could afford more shabtis, which meant they had to be looked after by an overseer. Many of them are inscribed with “Osiris King Psusennes-beloved-of-Amun, beloved-of-Osiris lord of eternity.”

This golden bowl (JE 85896) with carved stripes on the body reveals the fine taste and skills of the craftsman of this period. It has four inscriptions on it, saying “The Adoratress of Hathor Henuttawy, Mother Divine of Khonsu, Aakheperre chosen of Amun, Psusennes beloved of Amun.” It is unclear if Henuttawy refers to his mother or another one of his wives/sisters.

A silver libation vessel was one of the finds in the tomb. It has a spout and would have been used in various purification rights as well as water libations. The text on the pieces states, “The Osiris King, Lord of the Two Lands, Aakheperre-chosen-of-Amun, the Son of Re, Lord of Crowns, Psusennes-beloved-of-Amun, beloved of Osiris, Foremost-of-the-Westerners.”

Interestingly an oven or brazier (JE 85910) was also found in the tomb, that is inscribed with the name of Ramses II. This item would have been used to sacrifice small offerings or burn fragrant resins. It may have originally been from a palace or temple in Thebes, but was taken to Tanis as a sacred artifact of Ramses II. This would be a token of veneration and respect for the great king. The text is a dedication by Ramses to the temple gods on the occasion of one of his Heb-Sed Festivals. The libation vessel was found on top of this.

This slideshow below features some other items found in the tomb including golden vessels, Psusennes I’s four canopic jars, and a golden sword handle!

Sarcophagi and Coffins

The outer and middle sarcophagi had been recycled from previous burials in the Valley of the Kings. This was through the state-sanctioned tomb-robbing that was a common practice in the 3rd Intermediate Period.

Nut on the lid of the outer sarcophagus

The pink granite outer sarcophagus has a cartouche which reveals that it was originally made for Pharaoh Merenptah of the 19th Dynasty. The lid shows the dead king, now Osiris, being watched over by his sister/wife. On the underside of the lid was the sky goddess Nut. She was sculpted so that she would lie face to face with the deceased king forever.

The inner sarcophagus was made out of black granite. This coffin was most likely made for a non-royal originally for a variety of reasons. The texts used date to the 19th dynasty and the deceased figure carved does not have a uraeus or any royal insignia in his hands.

An image of Nut spreading her arms protectively is over the front. Hieroglyphs on the cover of the sarcophagus give the names of Psusennes several times as well as describing the protective role of Nut.

“I am Nut, I [have] placed my two arms over you, I hold you to my breast.” The King begs her aid: “Spread yourself over me so that I may be placed among the imperishable stars and may never die.” On the foot of the lid, Isis watches over Psusennes as he is now in the new incarnation of Osiris.

The body of the sarcophagus is decorated with columns of text and representations of the funerary deities. On the left, Hapi and Qubehsenuf stand on either side of Anubis, with Thoth, holding the sign of night, appearing twice, and the eyes of Horus. And on the right, Imsety, Duamutef, and Anubis face Thoth. These gods are there to protect the king and to regenerate him as they did for Osiris. They say,

“I am Hapi, I have come to protect you, I have reassembled the head and the limbs,” and “I am Qebehsenuf, I have reunited your bones, I have brought your heart.”

Thoth recited a formula from Chapter 161 of the Book of the Dead,

“Long Live Re, death to the turtle, unscathed is he who rests in the sarcophagus.”

Psusennes I was buried within an inner silver coffin (JE 85912) which was inlaid with gold. This was made purely for Psusennes I. It portrays him as a mummy with his hands over his chest, holding a flail and scepter. There are bands of gold along the forehead and a solid gold uraeus. The eyes are inlaid with colored glass paster. On the chest and abdomen, there are representations of three birds with outspread wings while the remainder of the coffin is decorated with long feathers. Finally, the goddesses Isis and Nephthys are shown on the feet of the lid. The golden mummy board and gold mask were found within this coffin


Psusennes I was found with six gold or lapis lazuli necklaces, three pectorals, 26 bracelets, and several rings.

His main collar (JE 85751) consisted of gold beads and seven chains with tassels and floral pendants. This was made with thousands of individual gold pieces and weighs 8 kg (18lbs). The chains are attached to a golden rectangular plaque decorated with two cartouches bearing the names of the king. The figures of Amun and Mut are on either side. The upper part is decorated with the winged sun disk.

JE 85755

Each lapis lazuli necklace weighed 10 kg. This necklace (JE 85755) had two rows of beads made of lapis lazuli and two center gold beads. The name of the king is found on the clasp. Interestingly, one of the beads had an Assyrian inscription mentioned the god Assur.

JE 85791, 85795, 85796

Psusennes I was found with three pectorals, which are large pendants that sit on the chest. This first pectoral (JE 85791, 85795, 85796) is made of gold, carnelian, lapis lazuli, feldspar, and red jasper. It is framed by alternating precious stone, topped by a cavetto cornice and with a row of alternating djed pillars and tit (Isis knots) below a row of sun discs. A winged scarab is in the middle and a cartouche of the king is above and below. Isis and Nephthys can be seen on either side of the scarab.

JE 85786, 85789, 85785

The second pectoral (JE 85786, 85789, 85785) is very similar. There are alternating semi-precious stones with a cavetto cornice. Two boats can be seen at the bottom separated by two rearing uraei. The king is in both boats, once with Osiris and the other with the sacred Benu bird. In the center, there is a scarab resting on a djed pillar, with cartouches of the king on either side protected by Isis and Nephthys. The pectoral is attached to a row of beads ending in a lotus form counterpoise.

JE 85787

The final pectoral (JE 85787) also has a winged scarab beetle. The wings are decorated with horizontal rows of precious stones. Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead is inscribed on the underside of the scarab, which describes when the deceased asks his heart not to testify against him during the judgment before Osiris. The scarab is made of dark stone and sits in a gold frame. It lies above a shen sign made of brown jasper, which is a symbol of universal power. The pectoral is attached to a series of beads ending in a lotus form counterpoise. The goddess on the right proclaims via text, “Isis the Great, the divine mother, mistress of the west.” (Though on the reverse side there is a slightly different text – “Isis the Great, the divine mother, mistress of the place of embalming.”) The goddess on the left, Nephthys, proclaims that “We have come to be your protection.”

One of the gold bracelets weighed nearly 2 kg (4 lbs). These bracelets have many of the same imagery including winged scarabs, sun discs, shen symbols, cartouches, and wadjet eyes.

JE 85160

JE 85160 was found on the right arm of the mummy, although it is inscribed on the inside with the word “Iabet,” meaning “east” or “left.” It was made out of two separate pieces, which were unequal in size. Then they were joined with an attachment hidden under the inlay. The upper and lower edges are adorned with spirals in relief and small triangles encrusted with lapis lazuli. The outside bears an inscription in gold relief set within lapis lazuli inlays. The inscription gives the birth and throne names of the king as well as his titles.

JE 85760

JE 85760 is a much simpler design. It is made out of seven tubes connected by a hinge and a clasp that uses a pin through the tube. The tubes are soldered together. It is engraved inside with, “The King, the Lord of the Two Lands, the First Prophet of Amun-Re, King of the Gods, Son of Re, Psusennes, beloved of Amun,” and “The First Great Royal Wife of His Majesty, Lady of the Two Lands, Mutnedjmet.”

This bracelet is inlaid with different precious stones, including large wadjet eyes. It is inscribed with,

“Long live the good god with the fearsome arm, and heart as brave as Montu’s was in his time, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Aakheperre-Setepenamun endowed with lifelike Re eternally,” and “The King of Upper and Lower Egypt lord of the Two Lands, Lord of courage, first Prophet of Amun-Re-King-of-the-Gods, Psusennes-beloved-of-Amun endowed with life.”

JE 86027 and 86028

JE 86027 and 86028 are almost identical and depict winged scarabs with sun discs and shen symbols. The cartouches of the king are also featured with sun discs. This gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian piece was also found and is described as an anklet rather than a bracelet.

Each of his fingers held a ring of gold and lapis lazuli or some other semi-precious stone. This ring was found on his thumb. Another swivel ring (JE 85824B) was found with a wadjet eye amulet made out of lapis lazuli.

The pharaoh’s fingers and toes had been encased in golden stalls, which are little golden caps. These are some of the most elaborate ever found because fingernails were sculpted in them. These were intended to preserve his toes and restore vitality to his feet in the afterlife. He was also found wearing golden sandals on his feet.

*Note: this week there are only images of skeletal remains*


Unfortunately, his body was not preserved due to the moist environment of Tanis. He was a pile of black dust and bones. The mummy could have been destroyed by water seeping through the ground. But his bones were examined in 1940, and he was determined to be an elderly man, possibly around 80 years old. His teeth were badly worn and full of cavities. He had an abscess that left a hole in his palate. This combined with extensive arthritis probably made him in extensive pain in his final years. These were recently re-examined in 2010 for a PBS documentary called “The Silver Pharaoh,” which you can watch here.

The funerary mask (JE 85913) was found intact and is made of gold, lapis lazuli, and inlays of black and white glass for the eyes and eyebrows. It is surmounted with a uraeus, or a royal cobra, and has a divine plaited false beard. The king wears a nemes headdress and a broad or weskh collar incised with floral decoration. It is made out of two pieces of beaten gold, soldered, and joined together with five nails.

JE 85821

He was also found with a gold plaque (JE 85821) which would have been placed over the incision made in his lower abdomen to remove the internal organs. The plate was intended to heal and form a scar over the incision. In the center of the plater, there is a sacred wadjet eye flanked by the four sons of Horus, who are depicted standing with upraised arms as a sign of devotion. The hieroglyphs above have the names of the Four Sons of Horus and the cartouche of the king. The entire scene is framed by a thin incised line with holes at the four corners allowing the plate to be attached to the mummy’s bindings.

JE 85820

Four small gold amulets (JE 85820), were also found within the mass of dust and bones. These depict a Ba bird, a falcon, a vulture, and the Two Ladies. All are made out of beaten gold. The Ba bird symbolized the immortal soul, which is invoked to come back after death to attach itself to the corpse in the god’s domain, according to Book of the Dead Spell 89. The human head represents the King, who had all the royal insignia. The Two Ladies amulet is a combination of the vulture goddess Nekhbet and the cobra goddess Wadjet, who are the titular deities of Upper and Lower Egypt who signified the union of the land.

Reconstruction of the aged Psusennes I

This reconstruction of the king was drawn by Melissa Drink and depicts him in his old age wearing his main collar necklace.


Photo Credits

Photo of tomb reconstruction – Wikimedia Commons (Neithsabes)

Collar – Wikimedia Commons (tutincommon (John Campana))

Mask, Shabtis, Tomb, Reconstruction, Bracelets, Coffin, bowl, necklace, pectoral, collar, cup –

Overseer Shabti –

Worker Shabti –

Bracelet –,-from-Tanis,-Third-Intermediate-Period-(gold).html

Mask –,-from-the-Tomb-of-Psusennes-I,-Tanis,-Third-Intermediate-Period-(gold,-lapis-lazuli-and-glass-paste).html

Excavation photo (Psusennes I is on the left) –

Black and White Photos –

Side view of the mask -

Tanis temple area, tomb layout, black and white photos, fingercaps –

Amulets, jewelry, oven, bowls –

Ring –

Canopic jars –,%20burials/pages/egpytian_museum_cairo_2050.htm

Collar and stalls, coffin, sword handle – Flickr (merjaattia)

Bracelets – Flickr (sergiothirteen)

Coffin –

Skeleton – (Andy Webb)

Tomb – Wikimedia Commons (Jon Bodsworth)

Bracelet and Gold Pommel and Tubular section of staff –

Red granite sarcophagus

Shoes –

Outer sarcophagus –,%20gold/pages/Dynasty%2021%20Psusennes%20I%20sarcophagus%203.htm

Mummy Monday: Hornedjitef

This week I’d like to introduce you all to a mummy from the Ptolemaic Period, which is the period when Egypt was under the rule of the Greek Ptolemaic pharaohs. His name is Hornedjitef and he was a priest of Amun.


Little is known about Hornedjitef’s life because it is not exactly known where he was buried. His coffin was most likely excavated around 1825 in the Asasif area of Thebes. This is a cemetery area on the road leading to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahri. Although I said it was excavated, this was not done following modern archaeological techniques. If it was, the tomb’s location, size, layout, and decoration would have been recorded along with the cataloging of all the objects found in the tomb.

You can see Assasif along the road to Deir el-Bahri

All we know is that coffin and a few objects were found together and collected by Henry Salt, who was the British Consul-general in Egypt in 1815 and a collector. His collection was mainly housed in Egypt before his death. In 1935, part of his collection was brought to England to be sold by the auction house Sotheby’s. Here the British Museum purchased the coffin, mummy, and some of the associated items for £320.

We know from his Book of the Dead fragments that his parents were Nekhthorheb and Tadineferhotep. He held multiple religious titles, indicating that he was a high ranking religious figure. He was a Priest of Amun at the Temple of Karnak in Thebes, Prophet of Min, Prophet of Khons, and Overseer of the Burnt Offerings of Amun. He lived during the reign of Ptolemy III which dated from 246 to 222 B.C.E.

As a priest, he would have worked in the various temples in Karnak performing a variety of sacred rituals every day. The priests had to wash and “feed” the statues of the gods in the temples.

Associated Artifacts

As I just mentioned, some of the items from Hornedjitef’s funeral assemblage were kept with the coffin and mummy. These are a Book of the Dead papyrus, a painted wooden figure of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, and a hypocephalus.

The Book of the Dead is a funerary text which was customized for the deceased. Different spells or instructions were chosen to help the deceased navigate the afterlife. Hornedjitef’s Book of the Dead is in eight fragments in the British Museum (EA10037,1-8), although only the first three have been photographed. They are quite simple designs, using only black and red ink. The images show the deceased giving offerings to his parents and his funeral procession. Priests are anointing his mummy, carrying the coffin on a barge, and preparing his funeral assemblage for burial. Following the procession are mourning women, crying out against his death.

The wooden statue of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris (EA9736) is typical of this period. This god is one of the forms of the god of the dead, who is wrapped up like a mummy. Usually, he wears a feathered headdress, but that seems to be lost. His face is covered in gold leaf, which addressed the Egyptian belief that the gods had golden skin and hair of lapis lazuli. A small figure of a falcon mummy, representing Sokar, sits in front of the god, protecting a secret compartment that contains a tiny piece of rolled-up papyrus. The piece is covered in the Egyptian offering formula, which symbolically gives the deceased a portion of the offerings the king gives to the gods daily.

A hypocephalus is an interesting object that is related to a specific spell of the Book of the Dead. This is an inscribed disc that was placed under the heads of mummies during the Late Period and Ptolemaic Era. The texts are taken from spell 162 of the Book of the Dead and were intended to provide heat to ensure the resurrection of the dead. Images of a variety of deities would help the potency of the texts. This hypocephalus (EA8446) was made of plaster over linen, but it could be made out of papyrus or bronze. A four-headed ram god called Banebdjedet of Mendes, baboons, and barque are all featured.

The only object of Hornedjitef that is not located at the British Museum is the canopic chest. This (AH 215) is located at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, Netherlands, but it unclear if they purchased it from the sale at Sotheby’s or from another seller. By the Ptolemaic Era, the embalmed entrails were not kept in the four canopic jars but small wooden chests in the form of a shrine or naos. The chest consists of a square base with four painted side panels that slope upward. A hollow cornice is placed on top as the lid with another image of the god Sokar. All four sides are painted with images of the four sons of Horus, the winged scarab god, Khepri, and Anubis giving offering presumably to the head of Hornedjitef.


The mummy is housed inside two different coffins. The outer coffin (EA6677) is quite simple in comparison, though it is massive compared to the inner coffin. The massive size may have been to indicate his wealth and high status or as a way to protect the burial from robbery. It has a painted black surface with details painted yellow. The color black was associated with Osiris and was seen as a color of regeneration and fertility. The decoration includes a large broad collar, images of Isis and Nephthys mourning over the deceased, and inscriptions from the Book of the Dead. The bottom part of the outer coffin has an image of the goddess Nut, who would help protect the mummy. It also symbolizes Hornedjitef in the womb of the goddess, ready to experience a rebirth into the next world.

The inner coffin (EA6678) is a striking contrast to the outer coffin in terms of decoration. It had a fine gilded face with a curled tapering beard. The broad collar is vivid with terminals (the end portion of the necklace) in the form of falcon heads. In the center of the collar, there is an image of the ba, which is a piece of the Egyptian soul, and a pectoral ornament that contains a scene of Hornedjitef adoring four deities. Below the collar is an image of the sun god as a winged scarab beetle, flanked by baboons. The funerary text runs down the middle of the coffin, with the four sons of Horus, Isis, and Nephthys on either side.

The interior of the lid contains an elaborate version of the Egyptian sky, as the lid of a coffin was symbolically identified with the heavens as it stretched above the deceased. The goddess Nut is pictured here frontally, stretching over the mummy. Chapter 89 of the Book of the Dead is written all over her body. To the left, there is a list of the planets and the stars that helped the Egyptians tell time. And to the right are the constellations of the northern hemisphere. On the bottom of the interior, there are two images of Anubis and two bound prisoners. This symbolizes the deceased’s triumph over the enemies of Egypt or the forces of chaos that might try too hard Egypt or threaten his survival in the afterlife.

*There are no images of mummified remains in this case, but there are x-rays, CT scans, and facial reconstructions*


Now this mummy is a little different than the previous mummies we have looked at. Although it was found in the early 1800s, this mummy was never unwrapped. Most mummies were unwrapped during this time, which has led to further damage over the years. But because this mummy has not been unwrapped, modern scholars have to use some more complicated techniques to learn about the body.

Hornedjitef’s still wrapped mummy, without its mask

But first, let’s talk about the beautiful cartonnage cover and mask on this mummy (EA6679)! The surface is decorated in a material called cartonnage, which is made out of layers of linen and west plaster which dried solid. It was then painted blue, gilded, and decorated with traditional funerary scenes. On the bottom of the feet of the coffin, the soles of the feet of the deceased are painted with images of two bound prisoners, mirroring the image inside the lid of the inner coffin.

The mask was made separately. It shows the idealized face of a young man, although his beard is missing. His skin is glided, implying that he had become divine like the gods. Around his brow is a version of a spell in which parts of his head are identified with the bodily members of various gods. This was done to protect the head from being separated from the body, which would prevent the deceased from reaching the afterlife.

To examine the mummy, the British Museum staff took x-rays and a CT scan of the mummy. They were able to determine that Hornedjitef was probably 55 to 65 when he died. He did not seem to have any fractures, dislocations, or lines of arrested growth. But he did have arthritis and osteoporosis in his spine, which would have caused him great pain. His arms were flexed at the elbows, with the forearms crossed over his upper abdomen.

Although a canopic chest for Hornedjitef has been found, his internal organs were not placed in it. When the chest was opened, there were just pieces of broken pottery. Through the CT scan, scholars were able to see that he had four cylindrical packages of linen and resin, which most likely contained his organs. His heart was also left within his chest, which was traditional of Egyptian mummification because they believed that they thought with their heart and not their brain. There was also a heart scarab placed over his chest, though it seems to have shifted toward his shoulder. After his brain was taken out (through his nose, if you didn’t know!), the skill was filled with rein, which you can see in the CT image. The resin settled in the back of his skull, indicating that the body was lying on his back when it was poured in.

His legs were individually wrapped, and a small pad can be seen between them. Besides the heart scarab, he was also wearing some jewelry. He seems to be wearing a ring on his left hand, a large gold ring on the big toe of his left foot, and some anklets on non-metal material. The scholars also used these scans to put a 3D image of the Hornedjitef’s face together. The top of his head couldn’t be scanned because of the way his head lies to one side.

Facial Reconstruction of Hornedjitef


In 2010, the coffin and mummy of Hornedjitef were selected by British Museum Director Neil MacGregor as the first of 100 objects for a BBC Radio 4 series, A History of the World in 100 objects. You can listen to the clip here and read the transcript here.

Also read this amazing booklet by Joyce Filer which covers even more about Hornedjitef, his mummy, and the time period he lived in!


Photo Credits

Sarcophagus, Mummy, Papyrus, Hypocephalus, and wooden statue – British Museum

Canopic Chest – Rijiksmuseum van Oudheden

X-ray, CT scans – Joyce Filer book

Map of Theban Necropolis –

Mummy Monday: Nodjmet

This week we are going to be looking at an intriguing mummy of an older woman named Nodjmet or Nedjmet found in a cache in Deir el-Bahri. She was definitely a high ranking noble lady married to the High Priest of Amun, Herihor, but she could have also been considered royalty!

Identity Crisis

There is some debate as to if there was only one Queen Nodjmet or two. Some scholars believe that Herihor’s mother may have also been named Nodjmet, and may have been the mummy that we are going to talk about later. This is based on two separate Book of the Dead fragments that were found with the body. She is mentioned as the King’s Mother in both papyri, but never as King’s Wife.

Because of this, some scholars believe that the mummy is of Herihor’s mothers and prefer to call her ‘Nodjmet A,’ and then call the wife of Herihor, ‘Nodjmet B,’ who’s mummy has not been recovered. Unfortunately, there is very little known about the mother of Herihor. She may have been the daughter of Hrere and thus the wife of the High Priest Amenhotep. Read the article below to learn more about this confusion.

The following biography is for the wife of Herihor, who was originally identified as the mummy we’re going to talk about today.

Life of Nodjmet B

She lived in the late 20th to early 21st dynasties in the New Kingdom. She may have been a princess, daughter of the last Ramesside pharaoh, Ramses XI. She was first married to the High Priest of Amun of Thebes, Piankh. He carried the titles of King’s scribe, King’s son of Kush, Overseer of the foreign countries to the South, Overseer of the granaries, and Commander of the archers of the whole of Upper Egypt.

They had at least five children, Heqanefer, Heqamaat, Ankhefenmut, Faienmut (female), and the future High Priest of Amun/Pharaoh Pinedjem I. Interestingly, it appears that Nodjmet was her husband’s most trusted confidant. When he went on a trip to Nubia, it seems that the management of Thebes was under her control. Piankh died around 1070 B.C.E. and his role was replaced by a man named Herihor, who then married Nodjmet.

 Herihor is an interesting figure in Egyptian history because he was most likely an Egyptian army official before becoming High Priest of Amun. It is thought that his parents may have been Libyans, but this is not proven. Herihor was also labeled as a vizier under Ramses XI before he seemingly claimed “kingship.”

Nodjmet and her husband Herihor on her Book of the Dead

Though Herihor held the titles of Lord of Two Lands, Son of Ra, Lord of Appearances, and Son of Amun – all of which are typical titles of a pharaoh – he most likely only assumed some royal power after the death of Ramses XI. His kingship was limited to a few relatively restricted areas of Thebes, around the Temple of Amun at Karnak, as Ramses XI’s name was still used on official documents elsewhere.

Because of this, Nodjmet effectively became a queen! Her name was written in a cartouche and she was given the titles of Lady of the Two Lands and King’s Mother. She ended up outliving her second husband as well, and most likely died during the first few years of the next pharaoh, Smendes.

So, let’s talk about the mummy that was found in Deir el-Bahri cache. Even if we don’t know which Nodjmet we’ll be talking about!


Tomb TT320, previously known as DB320, is known as the Royal Cache. It is located in Deir el-Bahri in the Theban Necropolis, opposite the Nile of Thebes/Luxor. This tomb is also above the famous Middle and New Kingdom funerary temples of Mentuhotep II and Hatshepsut. The tomb was originally intended for another High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem II, and his wife Nesikhons.

Location of the tomb above the Deir el-Bahri complexes

Sometime during the 21st dynasty, the tombs of the Theban Necropolis needed a “renewing.” These included the tombs of Ramses I, Seti I, and Ramses II, which had already been looted. These royal mummies were moved multiple times to protect them from looters. The mummies were labeled with dockets stating when they were moved and where they were reburied. When the last of the mummies were placed in TT320, it seems that the opening of the tomb was naturally covered with sand and possibly other debris.

An image of some of the mummies found in TT320

Here is a list of those who were buried in the tomb:

  • Tetisheri
  • Seqenenre Tao
  • Ahmose-Inhapi
  • Ahmose-Henutemipet
  • Ahmose-Henuttamehu
  • Ahmose-Meritamon
  • Ahmose-Sipair
  • Ahmose-Sitkamose
  • Ahmose I
  • Ahmose-Nefertari
  • Rai
  • Siamun
  • Ahmose-Sitamun
  • Amenhotep I
  • Thutmose I
  • Baket (?)
  • Thutmose II
  • Iset
  • Thutmose III
  • Unknown man C
  • Ramesses I
  • Seti I
  • Ramesses II
  • Ramesses III
  • Ramesses IX
  • Pinedjem I
  • Duathathor-Henuttawy
  • Maatkare
  • Masaharta
  • Tayuheret
  • Pinedjem II
  • Isetemkheb D
  • Neskhons
  • Djedptahiufankh
  • Nesitanebetashru
  • Unknown man E
  • 8 other unidentified mummies; funerary remains of Hatshepsut

The tomb was found around 1881, by the Abd el-Rassul and his family. They may have actually discovered it around 1871, but that is unclear. The family plundered this tomb for years and sold many of the items found on the antiquities market in Luxor. Canopic jars and funerary papyrus from this tomb were showing up on the market as early as 1874. The local authorities interrogated and tortured two brothers until they gave up the location of the tomb. Apparently, they discovered the tomb because one of their goats had fallen down the tomb shaft.

Emile Brugsch and Ahmed Kamal were the first Egyptologists to investigate the tomb. All the contents were removed from the tomb within 48 hours. The quick removal protected the contents of the tomb from possible looters, but the archaeologists did not document anything. The locations of the mummies and other contents were never recorded, and even when Brugsch went back, he was not able to document it reliably by memory.

Many of the items were also damaged before and after removal. Fragments of coffins were found in the tomb by later archaeologists, indicating that they were damaged during the quick emptying of the tomb. But ten of the coffins were missing the footends which were not found in the tomb, indicating that they were damaged before placing in the tomb. Obviously, the only reason the mummies were in this tomb was that their original tombs had already been looted, so the bodies are not in great condition. Some of the heads and limbs had been removed to find precious amulets or jewelry that the deceased wore.

Since the excavation in 1881, the near-vertical shaft was left open, which allowed debris and rocks to fill the hole. The tomb was reinvestigated in 1938 and then later in 1998 by a Russian and German team. This team cleared the passageways and were able to find fragments of coffins and other small items. After clearing debris away from the walls, they were also able to find some paintings on the walls, which helped them conclude that the tomb was originally owned by a family from the 21st Dynasty.

Watch this Youtube video or read these articles to learn more about the royal cache!

Coffin and Papyrus Fragments

The mummy of Nodjmet was nested in two coffins (CG 61024), made of cedar wood with sycamore wood faces. The coffins had been originally fashioned for an unidentified man and had either been usurped from the original owner or were perhaps donated by him. They probably had the original gender markers commonly used on men’s coffins, such as stripped wigs, face masks depicting ears, and clenched hands. If this was the case, the coffin was probably completely reworked as the ears were replaced with disc-shaped earrings and the wigs represent finely braided hair. The hands were removed sometime in antiquity, but the outlines indicate that they were originally gilded and clenched.

On both of the coffins, the gliding has been completely adzed off and the eye inlays have been removed. The outer coffin’s surface has been almost completely removed, indicating that it was probably lavishly decorated with a thick gold foil. This was hacked off with an adze, which is an ancient cutting tool similar to an ax, in a very crude and hurried fashion.

But the inner coffin was handled with greater care. The inscriptions and religious symbols remain intact, indicating that the coffins had been stripped by necropolis officials and priests rather than thieves. They probably didn’t want to completely violate the coffin of one of their royal ancestors, so they left the inscriptions intact.

As I said earlier, two separate Books of the Dead were found with the name of Nodjmet. One of these was taken from the tomb by the El-Rassul brothers and sold on the antiquities market. The two pieces are located in the British Museum.

Papyrus EA 10541 is richly decorated with colorful images of Nodjmet, Herihor, and the gods. I one scene, Nodjmet’s heart is being weighed against Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. While this scene is very popular in the New Kingdom, the symbol of the heart is usually used. In this scene, a small figure of a woman is used, presumably to represent Nodjmet. This is supervised by the god Thoth in the form of the baboon.

Papyrus EA 10490 is split into five sections. It is not nearly as colorful, but it is still in excellent condition featuring multiple depictions of Nodjmet with the gods Osiris and Amun-Re. This is the papyrus where she is mentioned as the daughter of Hrere.

Her Mummy

The mummy, currently located at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (CG 61087) was probably found in side room D of the tomb. The mummy was first unwrapped by Gaston Maspero on June 1st, 1886. G.E. Smith continued the unwrapping but only removed the remaining wrapping from areas of the body that were of special relevance to his study of ancient Egyptian embalming practices.

Some reports state that she was between 30 to 35 years old, while others claim she was an older woman. The mummy was in pretty bad shape after being presumably looted in antiquity. There were gashes on her forehead, cheeks, and nose, which were probably caused by thieves cutting the wrappings. Her legs, wrists, and left humerus were all badly broken. Impressions of jewelry were found on her right arm indicating that they had found and stolen some of the objects. But, several pieces were still found including several bracelets composed of tiny carnelian beads carved into the shapes of spheres and lotus buds, lapis lazuli beads, and gold cylinders.

X-rays of her body reveal that there was a heart scarab placed inside her chest, along with the figures of the four sons of Horus. Her viscera were not reinserted within the body like in late 21st Dynasty mummies, so it was probably placed in canopic jars which are now missing. The Osiris shroud that was covering her mummy was also damaged by looters. She was also reportedly found with an Osiris figure and a wooden canopic box.

Her original burial probably occurred around Year 1 of pharaoh Smendes, possibly in the tomb of Inhapi, the location of which is unknown. She was then probably reburied in TT320 after Year 11 of Pharaoh Shoshenq I. Three linen labels or dockets were found over the body. The first was found on the bandages on the sole of her foot and stated “High Priestess of Amon.” The second was found on the bandages on the right side of the body with her name written in a cartouche. The final docket had the date Year 1 of Smedes/Pinudjem I.

This mummy is also one of the first examples of a new mummifying technique. There was no attempt to insert materials under the skin via incisions, as was in the care of the later 21st dynasty mummies. The embalmers applied padding, wax, and other cosmetics directly to the surface of the skin to give the mummy a more lifelike appearance. To fill in her face, her mouth was packed with sawdust and her nose filled with resin. Artificial eyebrows made out of hair were attached to her face with some type of adhesive, probably resin. A wig was added on her head, which conceals a few remaining gray hairs. And finally, artificial eyes were placed within her eye sockets. This is the earliest known use of artificial eyes made of stone.

Even though we aren’t exactly sure which Nodjmet this mummy is, she represents a unique period of time where the power of the pharaohs was declining and mummification practices became more experimental.


Photo Credits

Color photo of mummies, canopic box –

Photos of Coffins –

More Photos of the Coffins (NEED TO DOWNLOAD) –

Full length photos of the mummy –

Photos of Papyrus (10541 – really pretty one) – British Museum

Photos of Papyrus (10490,1 ,2 ,3 ,4 ,5) – British Museum

Location of tomb – Ancient Origins

Isometric view of tomb –

View of shaft, other mummies –