This week let’s talk about the only surviving mummy in Leeds, United Kingdom. Let’s meet Nesyamun!
Nesyamun was a priest from the reign of Ramesses XI, around 1100 BCE. His name means “the one belonging to the God Amun.”
He worked in the temple of Karnak, which may have employed over 80,000 people at one time. Nesyamun was specifically a wab priest, which means that he reached a certain level of purification and was therefore permitted to approach the statue of Amun in the innermost sanctum of the temple. He also held the titles of incense bearer and scribe.
Mummification and Coffins
Nesyamun died around his 40s or 50s and was mummified with a double coffin. His body was covered in spices and wrapped in 40 layers of linen bandages. The coffins are among the best researched of their kind.
The outer coffin lid was damaged, so the above center images is what it would look like reconstructed. There are a few cracks in this coffin and its beard is missing.
Nesyamun and his coffins were donated to the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society in 1824 by John Blaydes. This later became the Leeds Museum. Nesyamun was not the only mummy in Leeds, there were actually two other mummies and coffins in the collection.
During WWII, Leeds was bombed many times, and the museum was badly damaged. The front half of the museum was destroyed. The two other mummies were destroyed and Nesyamun’s inner coffin lid was blown out into the street. The mummy was remarkably unharmed.
Eventually, the museum was moved to its new home at the Leeds City Museum in 2008.
Nesyamun’s mummy was probably unwrapped when it arrived at the museum in 1824 or shortly before. Based on photos it looks like the face and feet were the only things unwrapped or they were left unwrapped.
His mouth was left open when he was mummified. This is not typical and may indicate that the body was already in rigor mortis when it was mummified. Some have suggested that he died from a severe allergic reaction, but that has not been proven.
Nesyamun is also bald, which is typical for a priest. He did not have many teeth left and had many splinters left in his gums, possibly from brushing his teeth with a twig. The soft palette of his mouth was also not preserved.
Studies on the Mummy
In 1990, the Director of the Leeds Museum invited Egyptologist Dr. Rosalie David to study the mummy. She was part of a team formed in 1973 to research the living conditions, diseases, and causes of death in the ancient Egyptians. This group helped research and document Nesyamun. The Leeds Museum continued to document and research the decoration of the coffins which has led to a greater understanding of the nature of Nesyamun’s roles.
The most recent study was in January of 2020 when scientists from the University of York attempted to reconstruct the throat and trachea of Nesyamun. These used CT scans to create a 3D model of the throat. They were then able to create noise with the 3D reconstruction. It’s not the most remarkable sound and there are some concerns with the methodology which you can read here.
You can listen to the voice and learn more about the project here!
This week let’s take a look at another royal from the 20th Dynasty. Meet Pharaoh Ramesses V!
Usermaatre Sekheperenre Ramesses V was born c. 1110 B.C.E. to Pharaoh Ramesses IV and his wife Duatentopet. Very little is known about his early life. He did have a chief wife named Tahenutwati and another wife named Taweretenro. We know he did not have a son to succeed him, but it is unclear if he had any children.
Here are his royal names:
Horus name: Kanakht Menmaat
Golden Falcon name: Userrenputmiatum
Nomen: Ramesses (Amunherkhepeshef)
Ramesses V rose to the throne after the death of his father around 1149 B.C.E. His reign was the continued growth of the power of the priesthood of Amun. They controlled much of the land of country and state finances. Multiple papyri date to his reign that describes some political turmoil.
The Turin 1887 papyrus records a financial scandal involving the temple priests of Elephantine. The Turin 2044 papyrus recorded that the workmen of Deir el-Medina stopped working on Ramesses V’s tomb in his first regnal year. This may be because of fear of Libyan raiding parties which were close to Thebes. And finally, the Wilbour Papyrus records a major land survey and tax assessment which reveals that most of the land was controlled by the Amun Temple.
Besides all these problems, Ramesses V’s reign wasn’t that eventful. He continued to build his father’s temple in Deir el-Bahri, possibly usurping it in the end. And he built himself a tomb, KV9. He only reigned for four years, until about 1145 B.C.E.
Death and Tomb
The circumstances of his death are unknown, but there are multiple theories. The strongest is that Ramesses V died of smallpox because of the lesions on his face. He is thought to be one of the earliest known victims of the disease. He was succeeded (and possibly deposed) by his uncle Ramesses VI.
You can read more about his small pox in these two articles below!
He was buried in Year 2 of Ramesses VI, which was highly irregular as most pharaohs should be buried precisely 70 days into the reign of the successor. This might be because Ramesses VI was expelling Libyans from Thebes. Possibly, he has made a temporary tomb until KV9 was done.
Although KV9 was originally made for Ramesses V, it was severely edited by Ramesses VI and they were presumably buried together. I talked all about the tomb when I covered Ramesses VI, which you can check out here!
The mummy of Ramesses V (CG61085/JE34566) was found in 1898 in the Valley of the Kings cache in Amenhotep II’s tomb, KV35. It was found in side chamber Jb (position 6). He was found in the base of a large rectangular white coffin (CG61042). No lid was found with this coffin which was not the original coffin of the king. There are no inscriptions on this coffin that would indicate the original owner.
A shroud was found over a tangle of linens and then the body, which had been robbed in antiquity. Some of the bandages have been burnt by a corrosive agent, which may have been a result of a chemical reaction from the organic substances used during the embalming and funerary rituals.
His body was very well preserved and was unwrapped on June 25th, 1905. He was anywhere from 20 to 35 years old. His face was painted red and his earlobes were greatly stretched out, indicating that he wore large earrings. His skull was packed with 9 meters of linen through the right nostril which was then plugged with wax. There is a particularly wide gash on his side shows where the embalming was done. His organs were removed and then placed back in his abdomen.
The thieves that originally robbed the tomb did not do much damage to the mummy itself, although they did chop off some of the fingertips of his left hand, probably to get some rings.
There is also a hole in the parietal bone of the skull, which has been found on the mummies of Merenptah, Seti II, Ramesses IV, and Ramesses VI. His wound is a little different from these though. The scalp had actually been rolled back by the opening. This probably occurred just before or immediately after death as antemortem dried blood may have caused the discoloration of the area.
Another theory of his death is bubonic plague because of a possible bubo, an ulcer-like lesion, on his right groin.
This week let me introduce you to Nesshou, a priest from the Ptolemaic Period. He is currently located at the Musee d’Yverdon les Bains in Switzerland and has the most complete funerary collection in all of Switzerland.
Nesshou was born sometime during the Ptolemaic Period, presumably in the city of Akhmin. His father’s name was Nes-Min and was a Sema-priest to the god Min. His mother was named Isis-weret who was a Mistress of the House and Musician of the God Min.
Nesshou’s name (which can also be written as Nes-Shou or Nes-Shu) means “Belonging of Shu.” Shu is the god of the Air and father of Nut, Goddess of the Sky, and Geb, God of the Earth.
Nesshou took the same job as his father which was a Sema-priest of the God Min. A Sema priest is someone who takes care of the clothing of the god. In most temples, there was a large statue of the god that would have been clothed every morning.
The mummy was donated by Edwin Simond-Bey. He was an Australian who moved to Alexandria, Egypt when he was a child. His family was originally from Yverdon, Switzerland and that is where Edwin completed school. When he returned to Egypt, he was working for the Land Mortgage Company of Egypt. Edwin also took part in many excavations and left many of his finds to a museum in Alexandria.
Because of his contributions, in 1869 the khedive Taufiq awarded him the title of Bey and gifted him the mummy and its sarcophagus. Now typically these mummies that were gifted to royals, nobles, and collectors have little to no provenance. This mummy however was excavated in Akhmin by Gaston Maspero and his team in 1885.
Within the same year, Edwin donated the mummy to his hometown of Yverdon (MY/3775). It was opened in Town Hall on July 11th, 1869. About 80 people attended including many ladies wearing hats.
The collection at the museum was expanded in 1983 and 1993. It now contains about 204 pieces. The exhibit mainly focuses on the mummy. Unfortunately, just a few days before this post, the mummy was taken off of the display. It was taken down mostly for ethical reasons, as the mummy is mostly unwrapped. But it also needs to be heavily conserved.
The mummy was found in an anthropoid coffin made of wood. It was then stuccoed and painted in bright colors. The lower part of the lid has a spell of Nut. This is where the goddess symbolically becomes the divine mother of the deceased and is asked to lay down upon him keeping away all evil spirits.
You can read more about the decorations on the coffin in this article below.
The mummy was wrapped in what could have been 11 yards of papyrus with the Book of the Dead written on it. It originally consisted of 13 layers of papyrus. Much of this papyrus was damaged after it was unwrapped. Some pieces were reassembled and put under glass plates.
Within these wrappings were 14 amulets. 4 of these were removed during the unwrapping. They are made out of faience and gilded wood.
The mummy also had a cartonnage mummy mask and other cartonnage elements.
Nesshou was about 50 years old when he died. He had a couple of medical problems, but nothing that could tell us how he died. He has osteoarthritis in his right shoulder and arteriosclerosis in both knees. The condition in his knees would be very painful like gout, so Nesshou would probably be in a lot of pain in his last few years.
He, like many ancient Egyptian mummies, had pretty bad abrasions on his teeth. There were deep carious lesions that could have caused a severe infection around the roots of an upper molar.
This week let’s talk about my favorite goddess Nut! She was the goddess of the sky, stars, cosmos, and the universe.
Names and Epithets
Nut’s name means “Sky” in ancient Egyptian and uses the hieroglyph determinative for the sky. It can also be transcribed as Nunut, Nent, or Nuit. With any ancient Egyptian word, the pronunciation of her name is uncertain because vowels were omitted from its writing.
Like many gods, Nut had several epithets. She was the Coverer of the Sky, She who Protects, She who Bore the Gods, and She who Holds a Thousand Stars.
Nut is depicted in several ways, but the most common is as a dark blue nude woman covered with white or yellow stars. Often she depicted arching over the Earth with only her fingers and toes touching land. When she was depicted as a woman, she has a water-pot hieroglyph (which is pronounced nw or nu) over her head.
She could also be depicted as a cow, sycamore tree, or as a giant sow, suckling piglets who represent the stars.
Nut’s birth is dictated in the Heliopolitan creation story. Tefnut is a personification of moisture, mated with Shu, which is a personification of the air. They gave birth to Nut and her brother Geb, who is the god of the Earth.
This is unique in that most ancient civilizations have a Father Sky and a Mother Earth, but in the case of Ancient Egyptian mythology, Nut is the Sky Mother and Geb is the Earth Father.
Nut is absolutely vital in Egyptian mythology because she birthed the gods that we know and love.
According to the myth, Ra was the second god to rule the world and he decreed that Nut shall not give birth any day of the year. At the time, the year was only made up of 360 days. Nut obviously didn’t like this because it meant that she wouldn’t be able to be with her husband Geb. So she came up with a plan with Thoth, the god of wisdom.
Nut decided to gamble with the Khonsu, god of the Moon. His light rivaled Ra so Nut thought she could use that to advantage. Every time Khonsu lost, he had to give Nut some of his moonlight. Apparently, he was not a very good gambler and lost several times. Eventually, Nut had enough moonlight to make five extra days. Since those days were not technically part of the year, Nut could have all her children.
Nut then gave birth to four children: Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. In some versions of the myth (typically the ones from Graeco-Roman times) Horus is added to this list of children. Typical Egyptian myths have Horus as the son of Osiris and Isis.
Ra was of course furious about this, so he separated Nut and Geb for eternity. Their father Shu, who again is the personification of the Air, was meant to separate them. Shu is often depicted standing on Geb and holding up Nut.
Role in Egyptian Life
Nut’s chief cult center was located at Heliopolis but the Egyptians also worshiped Nut at Memphis as a healing goddess at a shrine called the House of Nut. She has been associated with the goddess Hathor at Dendera, but she has no known temple built exclusively for her.
“I am Nut, and I have come so that I may enfold and protect you from all things evil.”
In Egyptian life, Nut was the goddess of the sky and a symbol of protecting the dead when they enter the afterlife. During the day, the heavenly bodies such as the Sun and the Moon would make their way across her body. At dusk, they would be swallowed pass through her belly at the night to be reborn at dawn. Her fingers and toes were believed to touch the four cardinal points, north, south, east, and west.
“O my Mother Nut, stretch Yourself over me, that I may be placed among the imperishable stars which are in You, and that I may not die.”
She was a barrier separating the forces of chaos from the ordered cosmos. Because of this, she was often painted on the inside lid of the sarcophagus, protecting the deceased. The ceilings of tombs were also painted dark blue with stars.
“Hail, thou Sycamore Tree of the Goddess Nut! Give me of the water and of the air which is in thee. I embrace that throne which is in Unu, and I keep guard over the Egg of Nekek-ur. It flourisheth, and I flourish; it liveth, and I live; it snuffeth the air, and I snuff the air, I the Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, in peace.”
A sacred symbol of Nut was the ladder used by Osiris to enter her heavenly skies. The ladder was called maqet and a symbol of it was placed in tombs to protect the deceased and invoke the aid of the diety of the dead.
There was also a collection of Egyptian astronomical texts called the Fundamentals of the Course of the Stars or otherwise called the Book of Nut. It talks about various other sky and earth deities.
This week we are traveling back to the last period of Ancient Egypt, the Ptolemaic Period. I would like to introduce you to Cleopatra III, whose life was full of political turmoil.
Cleopatra III was born around 160 BCE, most likely in Alexandria where the Ptolemaic kings ruled from. Her mother was Cleopatra II, and her father was Ptolemy VI. She had possibly four siblings: Ptolemy Eupator, Cleopatra Thea, Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator, and possibly a sister named Berenice.
Here is a short background of what occurred within the ruling family before Cleopatra III’s birth. Be careful, there are a lot of identical names involved.
Cleopatra III’s uncle, Ptolemy VIII ruled together with his siblings (and Cleopatra’s parents), Cleopatra II, and Ptolemy VI from 170 to 164 BCE. Her uncle then expelled her parents from the throne and Egypt. But he was forced to abdicate in 163, and Cleopatra III’s parents ruled until 145 BCE.
This was when her father died from injuries sustained when falling off his horse during battle. Cleopatra III had at least one brother, but it seems like he was not chosen to be the heir, or he had already died at this point. And you’ll never guess who takes the throne now? Cleopatra III? Sadly, no.
It was her uncle Ptolemy VIII, again.
Now even those the Ptolemaic pharaohs were all of Greek origin, the arranged marriages of siblings were still done. So, Ptolemy VIII married his sister and Cleopatra III’s mother, Queen Cleopatra II, probably to solidify the throne.
But in an interesting turn of events, he also married his niece/stepdaughter, Cleopatra III. This was probably done because Cleopatra II was too old to have any more children. Cleopatra III and Ptolemy VIII were married in 139 BCE.
She had five children with him, all of which went on to rule different kingdoms. We’ll talk about her two sons Ptolemy IX Soter and Ptolemy X Alexander shortly. She had three daughters, Tryphaena, who married the Seleucid king Antiochus VII Grypus, Cleopatra IV, who married her brother Ptolemy IX (though she later divorced him and married the Seleucid King Antiochus IX Cyzienus), and Cleopatra Selene, who married her brothers Ptolemy IX and possibly Ptolemy X (then later married three Seleucid Kings Anthichus VIII, IX, and X).
It seems that Cleopatra III’s relationship with her mother was not great, as their first recorded quarrel was in 140/139. During this time, there was also an unsuccessful coup by an influential courtier named Galestes. Cleopatra III and her husband attempted to seek support from the native population to strengthen their position, but Cleopatra II rebelled against the king in 132 BCE.
This was a full-blown civil war between Cleopatra III’s mother and husband, and it is unclear who she sided with. While her mother controlled Alexandria, Cleopatra III and her husband fled to Cyrus in 132 BCE. He was able to return in 130 to regain control and she returned three years later when the civil war died down.
And then somehow, Cleopatra II rejoined them as joint ruled in 124 BCE. Honestly, I don’t know.
Ptolemy VIII died in 116 BCE and again Cleopatra III was allowed to jointly rule with one of her sons. Surprisingly, she skipped over her first son, Ptolemy XI (who was 14 at the time), and wanted to rule with her second son, Ptolemy X. But apparently, the Alexandrines didn’t like this and forced her to rule with her first son. Her second son was sent to Cyrus as an honorary general.
I have a feeling her mother influenced her decision because even after all the coups, Cleopatra II was still jointly ruling with her daughter and her grandson until she died in 116 or 117.
I honestly feel very bad for this family because it just seems like the family dynamics are all out of whack. Get ready for the craziest part of this rollercoaster.
In October 110, Cleopatra III expelled her first son and placed her second son as her co-ruler. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long and Ptolemy IX was soon back on the throne in February 109. Ptolemy X attempted this again in March 108 and again in October 107.
This last coup seemed to stick as Cleopatra III defeated Ptolemy IX in 102. Ptolemy X served as the annual priest of Alexander the Great. During this time, Cleopatra III tried to gain more support from the native Egyptians by presenting herself as the goddesses Maat and Isis.
Unfortunately, there were still tensions within the royal family, as according to the Latin historian Justin, Cleopatra was murdered by Ptolemy X, after he discovered her plans to kill him. This most likely happened sometime in 101 BCE, as she disappears from records in late 101. Her son marries his niece Berenice III and continues as the sole ruler.
When ruling, her Horus name was Nebtaoui Kenekhet, meaning Lady of the Two Lands, Mighty Bull. Depending on who she was ruling with, she was known by different names.
While married to Ptolemy VIII and ruling with her son Ptolemy X, she was known as Cleopatra Euergetis. When ruling with her son Ptolemy IX, she was known as Cleopatra Philmetor Soteira. And according to Strabo, she was known as Kokke when discussed in relation to her son Ptolemy X.
I am back! This week’s post is short and sweet, but still very interesting. This mummy is unfortunately just a head of an unnamed woman, but her mummified skin holds some secrets of ancient Egyptian cosmetics.
This head most likely belonged to a woman who was buried in the Theban Necropolis during the 18th dynasty. The head most likely appeared in the Cairo Museum between 1898 and 1930, probably excavated, donated, or sold to the museum.
It was then sold to a Spanish collector and banker Ignacio Bauer. Finally it was donated to the Real Sociedad de Arqueologia, Anthropolygiay Prehistoria in Madrid. This is where the head is currently located today.
At first this head was thought to be the beheaded skull of a Guinean woman, but in 2007 researchers traced it back to Egypt.
The mummy was probably around 20 to 25 years old when she died. The most intriguing thing about the head were a series of tiny nodules found underneath the cheeks and on the back of the neck. This condition points to a skin disorder or dermatosis called exogenous ochronosis. This is characterized by a blue black pigmentation.
This condition typically results from the long term application of skin lightening or bleaching products. Now obviously studies of this condition are centered around modern skin lightening products so regarding this ancient Egyptian mummy, the results are not clear.
Ancient Egyptian cosmetics sometimes contained lead as a primary ingredient, which could have caused this condition. This means that the ancient Egyptian woman may have not be using product to bleach her skin, but simply a normal Egyptian cosmetic that had an ingredient that caused the skin inflammation.
This is why personally I would move away from the title of “Bleached Mummy.”
Cosmetics in ancient Egypt are also related to the religious and magical parts of Egyptian life, so this may have been more than an aesthetic choice.
This week for Women Crush Wednesday, I want to tell you about Nauny, the mummy of an ancient Egyptian priestess located currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Come and take a look at her extensive funerary assemblage!
Nauny (sometimes written as Nany) was an ancient Egyptian priestess from the 21st Dynasty. Her titles are King’s Daughter of His Body, Singer/Chantress of Amun, and Lady of the House. She was probably the daughter of High Priest and later Pharaoh Pinedjem I. It has been assumed that Pinedjem I was her father because Nauny was buried nearby his other daughters and her coffin is very similar to her presumed sister’s Henuttawy.
Her mother’s name, Tentnabekhenu, is only known from her daughter’s Book of the Dead found in her tomb. There has been speculation that she was the daughter of Herihor or possibly a Tanite King.
Nauny was found buried in TT358, which is in Deir el-Bahri. This tomb originally belonged to an early 18th Dynasty queen Ahmose-Meritamen, the sister/wife of Amenhotep I. In Pinedjem’s 19th regnal year, Pinedjem restored the tomb and may have used it for Nauny’s burial.
But her burial was abandoned in disarray in the corridor of TT358. It most likely was looted after being deposited there. The burial party most likely ripped the gold off the coffins before leaving and left the coffins scattered in the hallway. This actually blocked off the burial of Queen Ahmose-Meritamen.
Multiple other items were not looted, which I will talk about after the coffins.
Interestingly, her set of sycamore coffins were originally made for her mother. Nauny’s name and titles are painted over her mother’s name and her similar titles. This was not done very thoroughly, because her mother’s titles are still very visible.
Both the inner (30.3.24a,b) and outer (30.3.23a,b) coffins have pieces missing that most likely contained gold. Again, the face and hands were probably removed by the burial party immediately after the burial. This was not uncommon, unfortunately. There is also a surviving mummy board (30.3.25), which would have been placed over the mummy, but the gilded face was also removed.
Multiple items were found with her coffins. An Osiris statue was found with a hollowed-out center and a hidden circular plug that had been plastered into place. This was a secret compartment that kept Nauny’s Book of the Dead safe.
Her Book of the Dead (30.3.35), also called the Book of Going Forth by Day, contained chapters 128, 30, 75, 115, 132, 94, 71, 72, and 105. Some of the chapters have appropriate illustrations with the text while others are just illustrations. These show Nauny as a young woman in the afterlife. Interestingly, the outside of the scroll is inscribed for her mother, but on the inside, it is inscribed for Nauny.
Another text (30.3.32) was found folded 8 times and laid across the upper legs of the mummy. This is the Amuduat or the Book of That Which is in the Underworld, which is intended to help the deceased successfully pass through the 12 hours of the night. This is a severely abridged version of the text, but it does contain images of Nauny.
A faience scarab amulet (30.3.34) was found on her chest. It shows a scarab on a half-moon-shaped piece of faience. A funerary wreath (30.3.33a) was also found with the body, though it was broken into two pieces by the burial party. One piece was placed on the chest of the mummy and the other was found behind one of the coffins on the floor of the tomb. It is made out of persea leaves and lotus petals. It is sewn with a double stitch over thin strips of palm leaf.
A piece of linen (30.3.36) cut from a fringed shawl was found in one of the many layers that wrapped the mummy. The inscription would have identified the linen’s owner or its quality, but this ink has eaten through the fabric in this case. A wig (30.3.35) was also found near the head of Nauny’s mummy. It was covered with a sticky unguent at the time of discovery, probably cause it was treated with beeswax and animal fat.
Finally, seven shabti boxes were found nearby. These are very plain and painted white. None of them contain inscriptions. Five are located at the MET (184.108.40.206a,b, 220.127.116.11a,b, 18.104.22.168a,b, 22.214.171.124a,b, and 126.96.36.199a,b) and two are located in Cairo (55044 and 55080). These contained 392 shabtis. In large collections of shabtis, which remember are supposed to be “servants” that can help the deceased in the afterlife, overseer shabtis are needed to “oversee” the other shabtis. I have only included a few images of them, but the MET database has photos of all Nauny’s shabtis in their collection.
I could not find any image (or even an accession number?) of Nauny’s mummy, but it was unwrapped. I did find out that her skull is now at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University (61599.0), meaning the rest of the mummy may be lost. It was unwrapped by Winlock at the MET in 1929 or 1930. They found that she was very short (about 4 foot 10 inches) and fat, the latter indicating that she lived a wealthy life. She was about 70 years old at her death, most likely outliving her father.
Her mummy was prepared with attention focused on aesthetic appeal. Her hair was dyed by the embalmers and padding was stuffed under her skin to create a lifelike appearance. Nauny’s face was also painted to restore a more colorful appearance to the corpse.
This week let’s talk about a mummy housed at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor, Michigan! We do not know the name of this mummy, but he has been referred to as the Six-Fingered Boy.
Unfortunately, we know very little about this mummy. We know the mummy dates to the Roman Period, sometime during the 1st century B.C.E. The boy was probably 2 to 3 years old, though scholars thought he was a bit older at first. The mummy was carefully mummified and wrapped with dozens of layers of linen. The body was not in good condition when it was wrapped, indicating that the child died and wasn’t immediately buried.
This mummy is currently located at the Kelsey Museum at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan (1971.02.0179). Its original provenance (ie. where it was found in Egypt) is not known.
The mummy was donated to the Bay View Association in Bay View, Michigan in the late 1800s. It was donated by Miss Hattie M. Conner of Cairo, Egypt. Now in 1971, the Bay View Collection was obtained by the Kelsey Museum, and the mummy has been there ever since. This is unique because the majority of the Kelsey’s collection was obtained through their archaeological digs.
In 2002, an undergraduate engineering student proposed to get a CT scan of the mummy. He arranged the process with the Kelsey Museum and the University of Michigan Hospital where the scans took place. He even borrowed a minivan from a funeral home to transport the mummy to the hospital.
The mummy had been previously x-rayed when it was obtained by the Kelsey Museum, but this was the first time it would be CT scanned. The technicians were able to discover so much more about the mummification process. They even found a wooden framework which was probably what the mummy was tied to when it was wrapped.
The most interesting discovery was that the child had six fingers on one of his hands. This condition is called polydactyly and could have been a genetic consequence, possibly from the many incestual relationships that occurred in ancient Egypt. Although I will note that incestual marriages usually only occurred in the royal Egyptian family, which during the Roman Period were not in power. So this may have been caused by another genetic condition.
You can watch this short video about the mummies in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology here!
For Women Crush Wednesday let’s talk about an Egyptologist who is known for her imaginative drawings of the ancient kings and queens of Egypt. Let’s meet Winnifred Brunton.
Winifred Mabel Newberry was born on May 6th, 1880 in the Orange Free State of South Africa. Her father Charles Newberry was a millionaire who made his money in the diamond mining industry in Kimberly South Africa. Winifred’s mother was named Elizabeth and she was also very artistic. Her father was also the builder of Prynnsberg Estate, which is a large house in Clocolan. This house is still standing to this day and is now an elite hotel and wedding venue.
Winifred was presented to court in London in 1898. This is most likely where she met Guy Brunton, who became her future husband. Guy Brunton was an English archaeologist and Egyptologist. He most notably discovered the Badarian predynastic culture. He later became the Assistant Director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 1931.
They were married on April 28th, 1906, and built a house together in Berea, Johannesburg later that year. Together they studied at University College London under Flinders Petrie, training with Margaret Murray. During this time, Winifred painted a portrait of Petrie.
They traveled to work with Petrie in Lahun from 1912 to 1914. Here, Winifred studied the evidence of the various paintings, sculptures, and even mummies to develop her final portraits. They also worked with Petrie at sites like Badari where Winifred drew many of the discovered artifacts.
In Guy’s publication of the excavations of Mostagedda in 1927 and 1929, he wrote that she was “the hardest-working member of the party” and “without her skill and untiring energy this volume would have had only a very small proportion of its value as a record.” Both of them would be on-site for months at a time and Guy and Winifred were equal partners. She was also known to work with Gertrude Caton Thompson and Hilda Petrie.
Winifred and her husband retired at her family’s mansion in Prynnsberg where she died in 1959 at the age of 78.
Winifred was best known for her portraits of the ancient Egyptian kings and queens. She published many of these watercolors in her books, Kings, and Queens of Ancient Egypt in 1926 and Great Ones of Ancient Egypt in 1929.
While her portraits are not necessarily accurate, her portraits have been hugely influential and defined the faces of the Pharaohs and the Queens in popular cultures. I believe that some may need a little updating because of biases of the time.
Here is a link to some of her paintings with are on sale.
She also painted the murals in her family’s home, some of which were Egyptian-themed. The estate became a national gem, but her family’s fortune did not survive, and many items were sold in 1996. Some of the auction pieces were numerous Egyptian antiquities that the Bruntons excavated and one of her paint palettes, which is now in the collection of Lambert Vorster.
This week’s Mummy Monday is a little different. We don’t know the identity of this mummy, but her remains tell us a very unique story. Let’s talk about the tattooed mummy from Deir el-Medina.
The tattooed torso of a woman was found and excavated in 2014. This was found within the assemblage that was stored in TT291 in Deir el-Medina, though it is believed that the assemblage was originally found in TT290, the tomb right next door.
Tomb 290 was originally the tomb of Irynefer, a necropolis workman who lived in Deir el-Medina during the Ramesside Period, 19th to 20th Dynasties. It is a small shaft tomb underneath a pyramid chapel. It was most likely looted in antiquity and then used for later burials. The tomb was discovered in 1922 and some of it was excavated in 1922. From pictures from the original excavation were full of comingled remains.
These remains were most likely moved to TT291 in 2004 in preparation for the public exhibition of Tomb 290. Anne Austin, an Egyptologist working for the Institute Francais d’Archaeologie Orientale’s mission to Deir el-Medina in 2014 researched the remains found. She determined that there were the remains of at least 26 individuals.
The torso also dates to the Ramesside Period (1300 – 1070 BCE). It was found unwrapped, except for one layer of bandages on the right forearm. The head, hands, and legs are no longer present. The mummy was at one point eviscerated, but there is no visceral cut. Rather there is a transvaginal or transperineal cut. While this practice wasn’t the most popular, there is evidence for this technique in other New Kingdom mummies.
Because the skull was missing, this made it very difficult to estimate the age of the mummy. But with the remaining bones of the torso, an estimation was made of 25 to 34 years old. She may have been mummified with the use of resins and this actually disguised some of the tattoos. Because of the looted state of the tomb, there is no way to tell if the mummy originally had any burial equipment when she was buried.
When the torso was discovered, Anne Austin noticed the marking on the neck of the mummy, but originally thought these were painted on post-mortem. But upon further investigation, these marks were tattoos. Tattoos in Egypt began to appear in the Middle Kingdom and evidence suggests that only women got tattoos.
Anne Austin published a paper and gave a talk about the finds on this mummy. When investigating the torso further, she was able to find many more tattoos. She also used infrared photography to find tattoos that had faded. A computer program called DStretch was used to flesh out and stretch the skin so that the tattoos looked more like they would have before mummification.
There is evidence that someone else would have had to apply some of these, as they are unreachable for the person to tattoo themselves. This implies that there was some sort of tattoo artist or system of tattooing established. There is also considerable variation in the darkness of the tattoos. This could imply that the applications of some tattoos were less effective, the tattoos may have naturally diffused over time, or some other process made the tattoos fade. If the tattoos naturally diffused over time, it implies that this woman received the tattoos over a couple of years rather than all at once.
In total 30 tattoos were found, but there may have been more on the parts of the body that were lost. The tattoos are found on the neck, shoulders, back, and arms. These locations are a slight departure from previous tattoos found on mummies. Usually, tattoos are found in more private places, where the tattoos would not be visible on an everyday basis. These are then associated with eroticism. Previous Egyptologists have remarked that tattooed Egyptian women were “prostitutes of dubious origins.”
But these tattoos, except for one on the lower back, are all in very visible places. I’ll talk about the interpretations of the individual tattoos and them as a whole after, but first, let’s take a look at them!
Anne Austin has labeled all of the individual tattoos by T- and then a number. I’ll be talking about them in groups because many of these tattoos are symmetrical! Check out her article here to see a table of all the tattoos and their interpretations!
On the neck, there are two symmetrical seated baboons (T01 & T02) on either side of Wadjet eye (or Eye of Horus) (T03) on top of two Wadjet eyes with two nefers in between them (T04). These are very visible and were the first tattoos noticed. Nefer is the hieroglyph that means “good” or “beautiful.”
On the left and right shoulder, there are matching symbols of two Wadjet eyes around three nefers (T05 & T06). There is also either a uraeus or a snake (T07 & T08) and another tattoo on either side that could not be discerned (T09 & T10). Below on the right shoulder is a girdle knot hieroglyph (T11) and a cobra (T13). Below on the left shoulder is just a cobra (T12).
This is where the tattoos begin to differentiate. Following the right arm down, there is a cross-shape (T15), a uraeus (T21), a Hathor handle (T22), an unknown tattoo (T23), possibly a bouquet of flowers (T24), and a snake with a basket (T25). On the left, there is a cross-shape (T14), a uraeus (T16), a snake with a solar disk (T17), dual khepri beetles or a sistrum (T18), faded hieroglyphs below a snake the signs mx wab (T19), and Hathor cows (T20).
On the upper back, there are a few asymmetrical tattoos. There is a hieroglyph of a clump of papyrus with the buds bending down and the signs for mw (T27), a Wadjet eye with the signs for mw (T28), and a Wadjet presented by a baboon (T29). Finally, the largest tattoo is found on the lower back. It is a series of dots connecting two lotus blossoms which are located on the back of the hips (T30).
The tattoos appear like amulets on the body which implies their meaning is of a magical or protective kind. This may have been a way to permanently attach the magical power of the amulet to one person. This could have been done to ensure healing and/or protection against illness, which would imply that this woman was very ill during her life. Unfortunately, because of the damage to the body, that is hard to discern.
Many of the tattoos can be associated with gods such a Thoth in the baboons and Hathor in the Hathor handle and cows. The Wadjet eyes and the nefer signs could be translated as “seeing the beauties” or as a votive formula, ir nfr ir nfr, or “do good, do good.”
The Hathor handle, which is pretty much a handle of something (usually a sistrum) with the face of Hathor, is upside down as if to mimic its position when held during use. This would have been “activated” by dance or movement, which would mean that every movement of this woman’s arm would ritually shake the handle.
While some of the tattoos are connected with the idea of power and divine action, most of them have to do with some sort of protective magic. This links the woman to the cult of Hathor, which would have empowered her to take on important cultic or magical roles. These tattoos help us conclude that she might have taken on one of several important roles in the cults of ancient Egypt, either as a wise woman, priestess, or healer.
You can also watch Anne talk about this find in the video below.