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 learn about a mummy with a tragic death. Let me introduce you to Takabuti, the mummy at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
Takabuti was a young woman living in Thebes during the 25th Dynasty. Her mother’s name was Taseniric and her father (whose name seems to be lost) was a priest of Amun. She held the title of Mistress of the House, meaning she was probably married to a middle-class or elite man. She was about 20 to 30 years old when she died. The circumstances around her death are very mysterious and I will talk about them at the end of the post.
The mummy and her coffin were purchased by Thomas Greg of Ballymenoch House, Holywood Co. Down in 1834. It is unclear where it was purchased from. The mummy was originally donated to Belfast’s Natural History Society’s museum. She was the first Egyptian mummy to travel to Ireland. It was later transferred to the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
This is where it was unwrapped and examined on January 27th, 1835. Egyptologist Edward Hincks was present during this examination and helped decipher the hieroglyphs. Funnily enough, her name was originally translated as “Kabooti.” After the examination, there were dozens of newspaper articles written about her all over Ireland. She also had a poem written about her and a painting done.
You can learn more about the mummy in this video!
Unfortunately, because the mummy was unwrapped, there were multiple beetles found on the mummy. A small sample of hair was taken from her, and you can see it here framed. Her hair is in excellent condition. It was very fine and only about 3 ½ inches long. It was styled in ringlets and it was a deep auburn shade.
Most middle or upper-class Egyptians shaved their heads to avoid lice. Mummies’ heads were also sometimes shaved, but not Takabuti’s. Her hair was cut, curled, and gelled. It was also most likely dark brown when she was alive.
Most of her brain tissue is gone, removed from the back of her skull. Her eyes have been removed and packed with linen. It was originally thought that her heart was removed, mummified, and then put back in her body. But this object in her chest cavity turned out to be material to pack a wound. She also had two rare mutations. She had an extra tooth, which appears in 0.02% of the population, and an extra vertebra, which occurs in 2% of the population.
Takabuti’s DNA was tested recently. It turns out that she was part of mitochondrial haplogroup H4a1. This technically means that her DNA is more closely related to Europeans rather than modern Egyptians. Some have accused the investigators of wanting to prove that ancient Egyptians were white, which was then dismissed by the curators. Because Takabuti lived in the 25th dynasty of Egypt, this result makes more sense as this was a time where there was a larger mixing of different civilizations in Egypt.
Finally, there was damage to her left hand and spine. These injuries were post-mortem. Her hand was probably damaged when the mummy was prepared for burial because parts of her missing fingers were found inside her chest. Her lower back break likely happened when she was unwrapped in 1835.
Circumstances around her Death
Now to the juiciest detail about this mummy. There is strong evidence that she was murdered! The theories have slightly changed over time, but scholars still agree that she was most likely murdered gruesomely.
It was originally suspected that she stabbed with a knife, but it is now suspected to have been an ax. A new book in 2021 examined the circumstances around her death. The wound is in her upper left shoulder and was likely instantaneously fatal. Several of her ribs were fractured because of the injury. It has been hypothesized that she may have been attempting to escape from her assailant. This could have been one of Takabuti’s own people or an Assyrian soldier.
You can also watch a lecture about this mummy and read an article about her DNA results below!
This week let’s look at a mummy located in Varodra, India! This mummy is the best-preserved Egyptian mummy in India, so I’m really excited to cover it!
This is the mummy of a female who lived during the Ptolemaic Period, most likely during the reign of Ptolemy II (c. 230 B.C.E.). Nothing is known about her, except that she was most likely from the upper classes based on the type of mummification she received.
It is unclear from the sources if the mummy has no inscriptions, or if no research has been conducted on them. I could find no individual picture of the mummy from the top, so it is hard to know.
The mummy was purchased by Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the ruler of the city of Gujarat, India from a museum in New York in 1895. It is not clear what museum this was. Believe it or not, it was purchased for $175. The mummy supposedly had a mummy mask, but its location is unknown.
It is currently located at the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery which was established originally in 1887. It didn’t open until 1921 because many of the objects for the museum were delayed in Europe during World War I. The mummy is one of the centerpieces of the Egypt-Babylonian Gallery. You can watch a short tour of the museum below!
The mummy is in relatively good condition, mainly in comparison to the other Egyptian mummies in India. The linen wrappings are still intact except for the toes. As the mummy is quite heavy which indicates that its internal abdominal padding is dense. X-ray reconstructions suggest that she was around 20 years old when she died.
Her brain was removed, most likely through her nose. And two possible fractures were revealed during X-rays. The radius and ulna of one of her arms were broken. There is no other evidence of diseases or trauma that would explain her death. She was 148 cm tall.
Unfortunately, the mummy has had a bad history of preservation problems. In September 1998, it was reported that a museum attendant accidentally sucked up part of the mummy with a vacuum cleaner. Apparently, he opened the glass case and believed that it could use a good clean. The damage was a linen bandage sagging, the paint peeling off of two of the toes, and her nose had unknown damage.
As I mentioned the mummy is still completely wrapped except for the toes. That is because someone unwrapped the toes around 50 years ago. This led to a buildup of white fungi. This likely occurred because the museum has a very high concentration of aeromycoflora. A report was made in 1999/2000 about this fungus on the toes and how this mummy needed a better case. The report agreed that it needed an oxygen-free glass chamber if it was going to be conserved. As of 2009, this case has not been replaced and it is unclear if it has been now.
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 a female Theban mummy that is located at McGill University. This mummy is unnamed, but she has proven to be very interesting!
This woman lived about 1,700 years ago, c. 300 B.C.E. during the Roman occupation of Egypt. Although the Romans had ruled in Egypt for quite some time, some Egyptian traditions were still in place, such as mummification.
Nonetheless, her or her family chose to mummify her. Unfortunately, we do not have any information about who she was in life. We know that she was anywhere from 30 to 50 years old and about 5 foot 3. We can also presume that she lived and was buried in Thebes, but this is still not clear.
The coffin that she was presented in turned out to not be hers. It was dedicated to a man name Tjaoneferamun, who was a sedjem ash priest and a cult servant of the divine votaress of Amun.
James Ferrier was a businessman who purchased this mummy on his family trip to Egypt in the mid-1800s. James, his wife Mary, his son Robert, and his daughter Margaret arrived in Alexandria in 1858 and traveled up the Nile on a dabhiyah boat called the Gazelle. This month-long trip took them through the Rosetta branch in the Delta down to Philae, close to Aswan. Most of their touristy trips were saved for the trip back down the Nile.
James probably obtained this mummy from a local dealer in Thebes on February 19th, 1859, along with several other items. They left shortly after to travel the Holy Land.
Late that year, James’ older son, James Ferrier Jr., approached the Natural History Society of Montreal with a list of 100 artifacts that his father had collected in Egypt. These included:
One female mummy with coffin, one male mummy, two mummified heads, four mummified hands, one mummified foot, two mummified ibises, one mummified hawk, and four small mummified crocodiles
They were accepted by the museum. Although we do not have records of it, the female Theban mummy was probably publicly unwrapped. At the least, this is where her head and feet were unwrapped.
The Natural History Society went defunct in 1925, much of Ferrier’s collection was transferred to the Redpath Museum at McGill University. The female Theban mummy that I will talk about here is RM 2717. The Redpath Museum also has a male Theban mummy and a female mummy from the Fayum region.
The mummy has been x-rayed and scanned several times since it arrived at the Redpath Museum. As I mentioned before the mummy is of a 30 to 50-year-old woman, 5’3”. The mummy lies on a wooden board, wrapped almost haphazardly with cords crisscrossing over her body. And again, the head and feet were unwrapped at some point.
The mummy was originally found with short white hair, which may point to her being on the older side of her estimated age range. She also had several dental problems, including missing several teeth.
After she was scanned in 2011, it was discovered that her brain was left in her skull, but her other organs were removed. Though her organs were removed through her perineum rather than her abdomen. Her heart was also removed.
Two metal plaques were found on her body, one on her sternum and one on her abdomen. The plaque on her sternum was probably to represent her heart. And the other plaque was probably to “heal” the area where organs were typically removed during mummification. These plaques may have been decorated, but it was unclear from the scans.
Facial reconstructions were created of all three mummies at the Redpath Museum in 2013. Each of the skulls was 3D printed based on the CT scans. Each to approximately 10 hours to print. Tissue depth markers were then added to help the forensic artists to reconstruct the heads. Forensic artist Victoria Lywood created the heads.
Watch this video to learn more about the mummies at the Redpath Museum!
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 (126.96.36.199a,b, 188.8.131.52a,b, 184.108.40.206a,b, 220.127.116.11a,b, and 18.104.22.168a,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!
This week let’s take a look at one of the largest tombs ever found in Luxor, Egypt! In this tomb was the sarcophagus of a woman that we don’t know much about. Her name was Pouyou!
Pouyou was a woman who lived during the 18th dynasty, between 1550 and 1295 B.C.E. Her name can also be written as Pouya. She most likely held some higher status during her life, but her title was unknown. Multiple other mummies were found around her, but it is unclear if these people were related to her.
The mummy was found inside of a white and yellow painted sarcophagus and was in very good condition. When it was discovered in 2018, the sarcophagus was opened while in the tomb. This was the first time Egyptian authorities opened an ancient coffin before an audience of international media. The mummy seemed to be in perfect condition as only the tips of her feet were missing.
Another mummy and sarcophagus from the 17th dynasty was also found nearby, along with the unwrapped mummies found next to Pouyou.
Now Pouyou was found within tomb TT33. This tomb is located in the El-Assasif cemetery across the Nile from Thebes. As of 2008, it was the largest non-royal site in the necropolis. The strangest thing is that this tomb is attributed to Pediamenopet, a prophet and lector priest from the 26th dynasty. So how was an 18th dynasty burial found within it?
Well, Pouyou was found in 2018, when the joint team from the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology and the University of Strasbourg discovered the archaeological deposit inside the enclosure. Pouyou’s tomb was obviously there first, so either Pediamenopet expanded on her original tomb, or he never knew it was there.
The tomb was first discovered in 1737 by Richard Pocke, who found the tomb open. It was more fully examined in 1881 by Johannes Dumichen from the University of Strasbourg, who has continued to examine the tomb. Most recently it was excavated by a French team lead by Frederic Colin from the same university.
The tomb contains 22 rooms connected by long corridors and distributed on three levels extending 20 meters below ground level. It is unclear where Pouyou was found within the tomb, but I am going to presume that she was found in the back of the tomb in the parts that haven’t been fully excavated yet. Interestingly the first three rooms of the tomb were turned into storage in the 1970s for the Egyptian Antiquities Service where more than 1,000 antiquities were stored here until 2005.