This week let’s talk about an elite lady from the 25th and 26th dynasties. Her name is Asru and she is currently located at the Manchester Museum in the United Kingdom (1777.a-c)!
Asru’s name meant “Her arm against them,” which is probably a reference to the protective power of the goddess Mut, consort of the Theban god Amun. Her mother was Lady of the House Ta-di-Amun, or “She whom Amun has given,” and her father was called Pa-Kush, or “The Kushite,” who was a document scribe of the southern region. Although her father’s name sounds a bit odd, the 25th dynasty was actually ruled by Kushite kings, coming from the southern nation of Kush (also called Nubia).
Asru herself only had one title as Lady of the House, which means that she was a married woman. She has been previously misidentified as a temple singer or handmaiden, which are pretty common titles women carried in Ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, we do not know the name of her husband or if they had any children.
Asru probably died when she was between 50 and 60 years old, which was a considerable age for an Ancient Egyptian. A reconstruction of her face was made in the 1970s by Richard Neave.
Asru and her sarcophagus were among the earliest additions to the Manchester Museum collection after being donated to the Manchester National History Society by William and Robert Garnett in 1825. The mummy had been previously unwrapped before donation, no doubt at a Victorian Unwrapping party (check on my Fun Fact Friday page to learn more about those).
She was examined as part of the Manchester Egyptian Mummy Project in the 1970s and scanned in 2012 in preparation for the reopening of the gallery. The 2012 examination was led by Professors Rosalie David and Judith Adams. I’ll put all the results below!
Asru was buried in two coffins. The outer coffin depicts Asru with a stripped wig and large broad collar. There are a winged sun-disk and depictions of the Asru being brought before the gods while her heart is being weighed.
The inner coffin depicts Asru with a vulture headdress and another broad collar. Below there is a winged figure of the sky goddess Nut and another depiction of her heart being weighed. Further down there is also a depiction of Asru’a Ba, depicted as a human-headed bird, hovering over her mummy lying on a bed.
Both coffins are covered in formulaic offering spells that mention her parents.
As I mentioned earlier, Asru was anywhere from 50 to 60 years old at her death and her mummy was previously unwrapped. Through these examinations and scans, multiple medical problems have been determined.
Asru suffered from arthritis and parasitic infections called Strongyloidiasis (also known as threadworm) and Schistosomiasis (also known as Snail Fever or Bilharzia). Her arthritis was in her neck and may have been caused by bearing a heavy weight over a prolonged period of time. It has been speculated that she may have carried something on her head that had a ritual function.
The infections would have given her anemia, a cough, stomach aches, and diarrhea. She also had a slipped disc in her back and a hydatid cyst in her lung, the latter caused by the parasites.
When her mummy was scanned, it was discovered that her brain had been removed from her skull, but the ethmoid bone, which is the bone separating the nasal cavity and the brain, was found intact. Her brain was most likely removed through the eye socket, which is not unknown, but unusual.
Interestingly as part of the examination, Asru’s fingerprints and toeprints were taken by the Greater Manchester Police. This showed none of the wear and tear that most ordinary Egyptians would have expected. This supports the theory that she was from the upper class and never worked a hard labor job.
This week’s Women Crush Wednesday is a little sad, but I wanted to include her to keep her memory alive. Let’s talk about Sha-Amun-en-su, an Ancient Egyptian mummy lost in the fire at the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro.
Sha-Amun-en-su, meaning “The fertile Fields of Amun,” was an Egyptian priestess and singer who lived in Thebes during the 22nd Dynasty. She was probably born around 800 B.C.E. into a wealthy family. She was probably not born into nobility, but her family was wealthy enough for her to be selected and prepared to work in a temple at an early age.
Sha-Amun-en-su belonged to the main group of priestly singers within the temple complex, called a Heset. They conducted ceremonial duties and ritualistic functions by helping the God’s Wife of Amun. This tradition lasted in Thebes between the 9th and 6th centuries B.C.E.
Interestingly, the Heset were not obliged to live permanently in the temple. Many of them only went to the temple when there were ceremonies. But the women had to obey strict codes of conduct. One of the rules was that they had to stay chaste. They didn’t necessarily have to be virgins, but they were considered extremely pure.
It was also common for an older singer to adopt a younger trainee as their tutor. There is a possibly that Sha-Amun-en-su had an adoptive daughter as there is another sarcophagus in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for a singer named Merset-Amun. She is labeled as “the daughter of Sha-Amun-en-su, singer of the shrine of Amun.”
She most likely died around the age of 50 years old, but her death could not be determined as her mummy was never unwrapped.
There is no record of the date or exact archaeological site where the coffin was found, but it is more than likely from Thebes based on the style of the coffin and that she was a priestess at the Temple of Karnak in Thebes. It originally was in the Egyptian Khedivate collection, which was the rulers of Egypt while it was a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. In 1876, the Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II visited Egypt for a second time. Dom Pedro II was an amateur Egyptologist and enthusiast. Khedive Ismail Pasha gifted the sarcophagus and the mummy to the emperor, who in return gave him a book.
The mummy was brought back to Rio de Janeiro and was one of the featured items displayed in the Palace of São Cristóvão. The mummy was part of his private collection and on display in his study. At one point, the sarcophagus was damaged by a storm. It was knocked down by the wind and crashed into the one of the windows in his office. It’s left side was broken, but later restored. There was also a rumor that Dom Pedro II would talk to the mummy while in his study alone.
Because of the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889, the mummy became a part of the Egyptian collection at the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro. In 2015, the curator of the Egyptian collection in the National Museum, Antonio Brancaglion Jr. said in regard to the importance and uniqueness of the sarcophagus,
“If you have a mummy, you have a mummy. If you have not, you won’t get one anymore. If we lose it, we will never get anything else remotely similar. We have to keep it to the end.”
This quote is especially sad, considering that the tragic end of the National Museum on September 2nd, 2018, where the entire museum burned. Almost the entire collection of the museum was lost.
After the fire there have been multiple recovery efforts to help re-establish the National Museum. Via Google Arts and Culture, you can do an entire virtual tour of the museum pre-fire, which you can view here.
Over 300 Egyptian related items have been salvaged from the fire. One of them is the heart scarab of Sha-Amun-en-su, which had never been previously seen because the mummy was never unwrapped. It had been picked up on previous CT scans that I’ll talk about below. But here is a 3D scan of the heart scarab!
This artist did a series of photographs and sculptures for an exhibition titled Museum of Ashes, where he took ashes from the National Museum and recreated some of the lost works, including Sha-Amun-en-su. You can read an interview with him here and see the exhibition pieces here.
And finally there had been multiple contests for artists to recreate something that was lost in the fire. Two artists chose to recreate the face of Sha-Amun-en-su. One is by Gislaine Avila, and the other was by user Rodrigo Avila.
The sarcophagus of Sha-Amun-en-su is carved in polychrome stuccoed wood. Its decoration had references to the Heliopolitan theology. The head of the sarcophagus has a blue headdress with a yellow vulture headdress and red ribbons. There is then an image of the goddess Nut and a ram-headed bird with wings outstretched. There are also two uraeus serpents with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt and the four sons of Horus.
There was also a representation of the singer’s Ba, which was a part of the Egyptian concept of the soul. On the back of the sarcophagus was a djed pillar which was a sign of stability associated with Osiris.
The first band bore the inscription,
“An offering that the king makes [to] Osiris, Chief of the West, great God, Lord of Abydos – made for [?] The Singer of the Shrine [of Ammon], Sha-Amun-en-su “.
And the second line of hieroglyphs reads,
“An offering that the king makes [to] Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, Lord of the [shrine] Shetayet – made for [?] The Singer of the Shrine of Ammon, Sha-Amun-en-su”.
Again, all examinations of the mummy have been made without opening the casket as it had never been unwrapped.
The mummy’s throat was covered in resin-coated bandages. This may indicate that the mummifying priests were protecting a zone seen as vital for a singer with ritualistic functions so that she could use her voice in the afterlife. This was also done to a mummy of an singer of Amun at the University of Chicago, Meresamun. This may indicate that this was a special procedure for the mummies of women who were charge of chanting hymns and songs.
The mummy otherwise appears in good condition with no trauma or injuries. Sha-Amun-en-su kept all of her teeth except one. She also went under a 3D laser scan by Jorge Lopes from Tri-dimensional Experimentation Nucleus of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. This scan allows for the construction of a small scale replica of her skeleton.
Several amulets were identified in her wrappings. One was the heart scarab that I mentioned previously. It is made out a oval green stone that was previously set in gold (which probably melted in the fire). This was placed on the heart of the mummy so that it could replace her heart which was removed.
This week for Mummy Monday we are throwing it back to the 6th dynasty, which is a rarity for preserved mummies. Today we are talking about Pharoah Merenre I.
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I was the fourth king of the 6th dynasty of Egypt, reigning from 2287 to 2278 B.C.E. He was the son of Pepi I and Ankhesenpepi I and grandson of the female vizier Nebet and her husband Khui.
Hr anx xaw
Horus, living of apparition
nb.tj anx xaw
The Two Ladies, living of apparition
Golden Falcon Name
bik.wj mnx.wj nbw(.wj)
The two excellent golden falcons
The two golden falcons
mr n ra
Beloved of Re
nmti m sA=f
Nemty is his Protection
anti m sA=f
There are royal seals and stone blocks that have been found in Saqqara that indicate that Merenre’s aunt, Queen Ankhesenpepi II was the wife of his father and himself. (I know this sounds weird, but remember that Egyptian kings frequently married their sisters, so his aunt would have been the sister of both Pepi I and Merenre’s mother.) This indicates that Merenre was probably the father of Pharaoh Pepi II, rather than Pepi I, as was previously thought. He was also the father of Ankhensenpepi III (as if two wasn’t enough), Input II, and Neith, which were all wives of Pepi II.
His reign was slightly longer than a decade, with the South Saqqara Stone crediting him with a minimum reign of 11 to 13 years. Merenre shared his father’s fascination with Nubia and continued to explore deep into this region. In his 5th regnal year, he traveled to the 1st cataract on the Nile to receive tribute from the Nubian chiefs. He also began a process of royal consolidation, appointing Weni as the first governor of all of Upper Egypt and expanding the power of several other governors.
There are very few depictions of Merenre from his reign, but there is a small sphinx statue in the National Museum of Scotland (A.1984.405). His name is also attested to a hippo ivory box in the Louvre.
Merenre built a pyramid in Saqqara, southwest of the pyramids of Pepi I and Djedkare. This pyramid was called Khanefermerenre (Ḫˁj-nfr-Mrj-n-rˁw), which meant “Merenre’s beauty shines” or “The Perfections of Merenre Appears.” Today it is mostly in ruins and it is not open to the public.
It was built 52.5 meters (173 ft 3 in) high, 78.75 m (258 ft 4 in) in base length with an inclination of 53 degrees. A 250 m (820 ft) long causeway was attached to the pyramid along with a mud-brick wall. Only traces of the mortuary temple have been found, presumably because construction was halted and never resumed.
The entrance to the burial chamber is on the north face which descends to a vestibule where another shaft leads to an antechamber. There were three portcullises in the passage. To the right of the antechamber is the burial chamber and two the left is a serdab.
In the burial chamber, there were polychrome reliefs on the walls and the ceiling was covered with stars. Besides the sarcophagus, there was a niche for the canopic chest that was sunk into the floor.
There was a decorated sarcophagus standing against the wall. This was in pretty good condition, although it had been plundered. The sarcophagus has a palace motif on the sides and the lid was found pushed back. The only burial equipment noted were two alabaster shells and a small wooden knob or handle for a chest.
The pyramid was first examined in the 1830s by John Perring. In the 1880s, the subterranean chambers were explored by Gaston Maspero (or Auguste Mariette, sources differ on who), who was in search of pyramid texts. He was the one to discover the mummy inside of the pyramid. Since the 20th century, a French team led by Jean Leclant has been researching the site.
As stated above, the mummy in question was found in January of 1881. Apparently, Mariette was sick and dying in his tent, so the task of inspecting the contents of the pyramid and sarcophagus was left to his assistants, brothers Heinrich and Emile Brugsh. When they approached the basalt sarcophagus, they found the well-preserved mummy inside. Unfortunately, the brothers apparently took the mummy out and dragged it across the desert to show Mariette. This…may have broken the mummy in half along the way…*sigh*
You can check out this (strange) reproduction of the discovery of the mummy below!
It was not originally believed that this was the mummy of Merenre, which is entirely a possibility. But, if this is the mummy of Merenre, this would be the oldest complete royal mummy known to us today.
It was reasonably preserved when it was discovered. The lower mandible (jaw) was missing as were some of the upper teeth. The head was also torn loose from the body and the chest smashed, probably by looters looking for valuables. The arms of the mummy are stretched out along the body and both feet a spayed outwardly. It has not been determined whether this position was a deformity that the man suffered from or if this was arranged by the embalmers.
The mummy was also found with a side-lock, which is a hairstyle typical of young boys in ancient Egypt where their entire head is shaven except for one braided lock. This may be why Maspero thought this was a later mummy that was buried inside the pyramid during the 18th dynasty.
The mummy is currently located in the Imhotep Museum in Saqqara, where it is covered by a sheet leaving only his face and forehead exposed.
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
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.
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.
This week we are going to talk about a child buried in the Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep II in Deir el-Bahri. Her relationship to the king is not entirely known, but her name was Mayet, meaning “The Cat.”
Mayet (alternatively spelled Miiut or Miit) probably lived during the rule of Mentuhotep II from 2061 to 2010 B.C.E. in the Middle Kingdom. Her relationship to the royal family is not known, but since she was buried within the mortuary temple, it can be assumed that she was a close family member to Mentuhotep II.
It is generally assumed that she was a young daughter of the king who died unexpectedly, but the Brooklyn Museum cites that she was a wife of the King. This is unlikely as she was probably around five years old when she died, which would be extraordinarily young for the wife of a king. As I said her name means “the cat,” and her name is written with the hieroglyph of a cat!
Her burial was found intact in the back of a columned structure in the center of the complex. Here there were six burials with shrines, which were discovered in 1921 by the American expedition by Herbert Eustis Winlock. Five of the burials belong to other royal women with the titles of King’s Wives. These were Ashait, Henhenet, Kawit, Kemsit, and Sadeh. Unfortunately, Mayet’s burial did not contain any titles, not even King’s Daughter, which leads to confusion about her relationship with the royal family.
Check out this article about the discovery of the tombs of these Queen’s and Mayet’s tomb!
Her coffins were found at the bottom of Pit 18. She was buried in three coffins, one made of limestone and two wooden coffins. The outer limestone coffin was inscribed with a simple offering formula. It was also much bigger than required, which suggests that it was not originally made for her small size. This implies an unexpected death and the use of someone else’s coffin. The stone sarcophagus was seemingly left in the tomb in Deir el-Bahri.
The outer wooden coffin is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ( 26.3.9a-b). This coffin has several offering spells on each of its sides and a pair of magical eyes on one side, which would allow the deceased to see when priests made offerings to them.
The inner coffin (and preseumably her body?) is located in the Brooklyn Museum (52.127a-b) and made of cypress and fig wood. It is also inscribed with a simple offering spell and decorated with a pair of magical eyes on one side. There is also evidence that the names within the offering spells had been altered to spell Mayet’s name. This is direct evidence of the use of someone else’s coffin.
Within the wooden coffin, the body of the girl was found wrapped in linen and adorned with a mummy mask. The embalmers added substantial padding to her feet and her head to make the mummy look longer and fit within the adult size coffin. It is unclear if the body is currently with the inner coffin in the Brooklyn Museum, as I could not locate any pictures of the mummy or the mummy mask.
Check out these awesome 3D models of her coffin by Indiana University!
There are several linen markers found within the coffin, which are located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (22.3.4-22.38). These are short inscriptions written in ink on the corners of large sheets of linen. Some mention the names or titles of high officials, to whose estate the linen may have belonged to or who were possibly overseeing its acquisition or production. Other marks say nfr meaning good, which refers to the quality of the fabric.
One inscription (Above, 22.3.7), which came from a sheet of linen (22.3.6) that was laid inside her coffin, mentions the steward Henenu, who may have been the same person depicted on a different stela at the MET (26.3.21a,b).
There is evidence that the tomb was robbed in antiquity, but the looters did not open the sarcophagus. This is lucky because there are several beautiful necklaces found on the mummy. All of her jewelry are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Five necklaces were found around the neck of the mummy. Her necklaces are some of the finest jewelry that survives from this period. The drilled stone beads are very tiny, making this a technically brilliant manufacture. The necklaces are made out of beads (22.3323) and amulets (22.3.324), carnelian (22.3.321), and gold (22.3.320 and 22.3.322).
This Mummy Monday let’s talk about another mummy found in the Deir el Bahri cache, Unknown Man E. The identity of this mummy is not known, though there are a couple of theories. The most prominent theory is that this mummy is a Prince from the New Kingdom, who may have been involved and tried in a harem conspiracy.
Because we are not entirely sure who this mummy was, I am going to talk about the mummy first and then the theories as to who this mummy may be!
The mummy was buried in a white simple Osiriform coffin (CG 61023) that was completely undecorated or labeled. It lacked any features to help date the coffin or identify the owner. The crossed arms on the coffin were popular in the 19th dynasty and onward, but the simple headdress dates to the earlier 18th dynasty. It was made out of expensive cedar wood, indicating whoever owned it was well off. The coffin and the mummy had seemingly not been rifled through by thieves.
Besides the mummy, two canes were found in the coffin. They were made out of braided reeds. Egyptologist Geoffrey Martin noted that the treasurer of Tutankhamun, a man named Maya, had been depicted in his tomb with two canes. Unfortunately, the canes current location has not been found.
As I mentioned this mummy was found in the Dier el-Bahri cache (DB 320), which we have talked about several times. I’ve already posted about Nodjmet and Seqenrene Tao, who were also found in this cache.
The mummy we are focusing on has been labeled as Unknown Man E (CG 61098). He was about 18 to 24 years old at the time of his death. After the discovery of the cache in 1881, the mummy was transported back to Cairo where it was first unwrapped on June 6, 1886, by Gaston Maspero.
The first thing that everyone notices about the mummy is the internal scream that the face is locked in. This mummy has often been referred to as “The Screaming Mummy.” Unfortunately, this has led a few Egyptologists to assume he died a painful death, but more on that later.
The body was found wrapped in sheepskin, which for the Egyptians was a ritually unclean object. The sheepskin still has some of the original white wool attached. Beneath this were layers of thick linen, dating to the 18th dynasty, and a layer of natron salts which were applied to the final layers of the bandages. This natron had absorbed fat from the body and emitted a strong putrid odor when unwrapped. The bandages that covered that layer were impregnated with an adhesive and could only be removed with a saw, which would have destroyed any inscriptions that were on the bandages (if there were any).
It was originally believed that his hands and feet were found bound, but this could have been misinterpreted. Apparently, the bandages were held in place around the upper wrists and lower legs with knotted lengths of linen. They were tied extremely tightly because they left a definitive imprint on the skin on the upper arms. There is the possibility that the arms and legs were tied down because rigor mortis, or the stiffening of the joints and muscles of a body a few hours after death, had already set in by the time the body was mummified.
Underneath this layer was a coating of natron salt, crushed resin, and lime, which most likely consisted of calcium oxide. This was applied directly to the skin, covered the whole body, and was extremely caustic. After this was removed by Maspero and his team, they found the body of the young man. They noted that the muscles of his abdomen were extremely constricted and that his organs were still inside his body, going against all Egyptian mummification traditions. His penis was still intact but was missing when G.E. Smith examined the mummy a quarter-century later.
Gold earrings were found in his pierced ears. They were in the shape of hollow tubes “tapered at both ends and bent back to form an ellipse.” Like the canes found in the coffin, the earrings’ current location cannot be found.
Check out this image to the right and this video below to see a possible reconstruction of the face of Unknown Man E. The video also features one of his missing earrings!
Theories About the Mummy’s Death
When examining the mummy, Maspero had been convinced that there was foul play.
“All those who saw him first hand thought that [he] looked as though he had been poisoned. The contraction of the abdomen and stomach, the desperate movement with which the head is thrown back, the expression of excruciating pain spread over the face hardly allow for any other explanation.”
Daniel Fouquet, a physician who examined the mummy, was convinced that the mummy had died of poison, stating,
“…the last convulsions of horrid agony can, after thousands of years, still be seen.”
This seems to be based on the constriction of the abdomen. But this may be a reaction to the preservative chemicals that were placed on his skin. That substance would have sucked out all the moisture from his skin, which then would have made his internal organs shrink and thus constrict the skin of the abdomen. But one fact that may support poison is that there was no food found in his stomach which could indicate that he vomited everything up after ingesting the poison.
A chemist named Mathey said this,
“the wretched man must have been deliberately asphyxiated–most likely by being buried alive.”
The buried alive theory seems to have been mostly attributed to the bound hands and feet and the horrible scream on the face. This is a theory that many believed in the early 1800s and 1900s and from what I know, I don’t believe there is evidence of any Egyptian being buried alive.
Some have also posed that he was impaled because his perineum was found badly torn. But this was unlikely because his large intestine was found undamaged, so the anal injury must have been post-mortem.
G.E. Smith dismissed these previous theories, saying,
“a corpse that was dead of any complaint might fall into just such an attitude as this body has assumed.”
It has been assumed that many of the earlier theories of his death were simply based on the mummy’s facial expression. Several other mummies are locked into this silent scream, which can mostly be attributed to rigor mortis, lockjaw, or the mummification method.
Theories About the Mummy’s Identity
There is very little known about who this mummy was in life, but based on the mummification techniques, there are a few theories, though only one (besides the theory of Maya, Tutankhamun’s treasurer), has a named Egyptian attached to it. Although this is one of the first theories, I’m going to talk about it last.
One of the theories is that this mummy was the unnamed Hittite prince that was sent by his father to marry Ankhsenamun, the widow/sister of King Tutankhamun. According to preserved documents, this prince was murdered on the way to Egypt. But why wasn’t he sent back to the Hittites?
One of the more important pieces of evidence for the identity of this mummy lies in the sheepskin laid on top of the body. As I mentioned, sheepskins were seen as ritually unclean by the ancient Egyptians. By why would an Egyptian noble or a Hittite prince buried in Egypt be buried with a sheepskin? Some scholars have looked at a reference is the story of the Tale of Sinuhe. In this story, the pharaoh tries to convince Sinuhe, a former friend and confidant who has been living abroad, to return to Egypt. The king says,
“You shall not die in a foreign land…you shall not be placed in a sheepskin as they make your grave.”
This implies that placing a sheepskin over a body was a non-Egyptian tradition.
This led some scholars to believe that this mummy was an important Egyptian governor or dignitary who had died abroad, possibly in an Egyptian outpost in Palestine. They speculate that maybe he died in the desert while hunting and his body was not found immediately. This would attribute to the rigor mortis that had set in and made it difficult for his body to fit in the coffin. Then his body would have been prepared by non-Egyptian embalmers, which was why the mummification was not consistent with Egyptian traditions. The sheepskin, possibly an Asiatic burial tradition, and the use of the calcium oxide mixture on the skin, which points to a Greek influence, are the two foreign features. The official may have already had the coffin prepared (since he might have been in a location where cedar wood was more accessible), but it had not been painted or inscribed with the vital texts. So they sent the mummy and the body back to Egypt.
The Egyptian officials who received it may have noticed the sheepskin and found it offensive, so they just immediately buried the coffin. Based on the location in the DB cache, the mummy was probably originally buried in the Valley of the Kings or somewhere close by. This location is probably true no matter what the identity of the mummy is.
An Answer to His Identity?
Maspero was the first to propose that this was the mummy of Pentawer, a prince of the 20th dynasty involved in a harem conspiracy that led to the death of his father. Maspero determined that the contorted expression, the organs not being removed, the tightly bound wrappings, the taboo sheepskin, and the undecorated coffin were all done to stop this person from entering the afterlife.
This theory was revived by Egyptologist Bob Brier, who was able to examine the mummy after it hadn’t been seen for almost 100 years. He also concluded that it was most likely the body of Pentawer.
Most importantly, the DNA of Ramesses III (who funnily enough was also buried in the DB 320 cache) and Unknown Man E were compared. They both shared paternal Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a and half of their DNA, which means that they were most likely father and son. Ramesses III had at least seven sons, most of which mummies have been found, so there is a small chance that this mummy could have been another one of his minor sons.
You can check out this article by Zahi Hawass and others which studied the bodies of Ramesses III and Unknown Man E, thus helping connect them.
Pentawer, also known as Pentawere or Pentaweret, was the son of Pharaoh Ramesses III and his secondary wife Tiye (not related to the wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhenaten, also called Tiye). All we know of this prince comes from the documents related to the harem conspiracy.
Interestingly the actual name of the prince is not known; this was just the name that was given to him in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin. This papyrus contains the records of the harem plot that he might have been involved in.
The Judicial Papyrus of Turin is a combination of papyri in the Egyptian Museum in Turin that all describe the trial of those accused on the harem plot to kill Ramesses III. These papyri were separated by a thief to sell them. Luckily when they separated it, they did not damage the text. Papyrus Rollin, Papyrus Varzy, Papyrus Lee, Papyrus Rifaud, and Papyrus Rifaud II are all included in this collection.
According to the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, Pentawer’s mother Tiye may have initiated a harem conspiracy to assassinate the pharaoh and put her son on the throne, even though the next in line to the throne was the son of Tyti. This plot was unfortunately not foiled as Ramesses III was most likely assassinated by having his throat slit on the 15th day of the third month of Shemu in 1155 B.C.E. This was the day of the Beautiful Feast of the Valley, which caused quite a commotion in the palace and harem in Medinet Habu, which was to provide cover for the assassination. Pebekkamen, a court official and one of the main conspirators, received help from a butler named Mastesuria, the cattle overseer Panhayboni, overseer of the harem Panouk, and clerk of the harem Pendua.
It was once thought by Egyptologists that Ramesses III may have survived the attack, but recent CT scans on his mummy reveal a different story. His throat was cut so severely that it severed the trachea, esophagus, and hit his neck bones. This means it was probably immediately fatal. Check out this video about recent CT examinations that helped determine these new clues.
But they were unable to put Pentawer on the throne because there were too many officials still loyal to Ramesses III and his heir Ramesses IV. The new king selected 12 magistrates to investigate and judge the cases across five trials. Accusations were brought up against Tiye, Pentawer, men in charge of the harem, women from the harem, and military and civil officials.
This is a translation from a portion of the Judicial Papyrus,
“Pentawere, to whom had been given that other name. He was brought in because he had been in collusion with Teye, his mother, when she had plotted the matters with the women of the harem concerning the making rebellion against his lord. He was placed before the butlers in order to be examined; they found him guilty; they left him where he was; he took his own life.”
Check out this link to an entire book about the Harem Conspiracy by Susan Redford and check out the article below to read the Judicial Papyrus of Turin.
Pentawer may have been an unfortunate pawn in this conspiracy. And since he was a noble, he may have been given the option of killing himself by poison to be spared the alternative. 28 people were executed, meaning that they burned alive and their ashes were strewn in the streets, which would ruin their chances for the afterlife. Others like Pentawer were given the choice to kill themselves, while others had their ears and noses cut off. The punishment for Queen Tiye is not included.
The likelihood that Unknown Man E was the Prince Pentawer has gained enough traction to be more than likely. But I do appreciate the thorough study of the mummification method which concluded that this was a foreign dignitary mummified abroad. I think a lot of the unique features of the mummification method could be attributed to that, which is why I question why they (mostly the calcium oxide mixture) would be used if this was the body of Pentawer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
This week’s Woman Crush Wednesday is a female powerhouse in the noble family of the governors of Elephantine in the Middle Kingdom. Her tomb was found only a few years ago near the tombs of her family. Her name was Sattjeni.
Sattjeni (or Sattjeni V to Egyptologists) was the daughter of one governor, wife of another governor, and mother of two governors. Although her family was not explicitly royal, her family practiced royal strategies to hold onto their governing power. They ranked just below the pharaoh’s royal family, but their roles were appointed by the king rather than hereditary. But because Aswan was so far away from the capital in Thebes, a mini-dynasty rose up during this time, keeping the rule within the family. Her family believed that they descended from the god Khnum, who is one of the oldest Egyptian deities. He is depicted as the god of the source of the Nile River and the divine potter, who created all people.
She was the second daughter of Sarenput II and had two known siblings. Her brother Ankhu died shortly after their father and there was no other male successor. So Sattjeni and her sister Gaut-Ankhuet technically had the rights of the rule in Elephantine.
Her sister married a man named Heqaib, who became Heqaib II when he became governor. By marrying the daughter of the last governor, it would solidify his rule as governor. They did have a son named Heqaib-Ankh, but Gaut-Ankhuet died soon after, so Sattjeni married her sister’s widower. They had at least two children, Heqaib III and Ameny-Seneb, both of which would become governor of Elephantine, after their step-brother, Heqaib-Ankh.
After her husband died, Sattjeni did marry an official named Dedu-Amen, who may have been of Nubian descent. They had two more sons, Sarenput (after her father) and Amenemhat (after the pharaoh).
Discovery of her Burial
Her burial was found in tomb QH34aa in 2016 in the necropolis at Qubbet el-Hawa across the Nile from Aswan in Upper Egypt by a team from the University of Jaén in Spain, with excavation leader Alejandro Jiménez Serrano.
Qubbet el-Hawa is one of the most important nonroyal necropolises in Egypt. There are a great quantity and quality of biographical inscriptions in the funerary complexes. It was mainly used to bury the highest officials of the nearby town of Elephantine as this was the capital of the southernmost province of Egypt from 2200 to 1775 B.C.E. These governors are buried together with their relatives, while members of their courts were buried in smaller and less decorated tombs. There are about 100 tombs, with only 80 being completely cleared.
Tomb QH34aa was a small tomb next to the larger QH33 tomb where Hequaib III, Ameny- Seneb, and their half-brother Sarenput were buried. Outside the western wall of the burial chamber of Heqaib III, a votive bowl was found. It once contained a food offering to honor the deaceased. The bowl was inscribed with Sattjeni’s name and title as the Daughter of the Governor in hieratic. It may have been placed here by Sattjeni for the burial of her son.
The upper part of a chamber of QH34aa was discovered in 2013 and this was most likely a tomb quarried in the Byzantine period (5th century C.E.). It was originally thought that this area was disturbed as there was a Christian prayer painted by the Coptics on the walls.
But the end of the chamber was actually the beginning of a shaft. The shaft was not fully excavated in 2016. A small hole was found in the wall of the burial chamber and through it, archaeologists could see hieroglyphs on the coffin.
Burial and Mummy
Sattjeni was buried in two coffins made of cedar wood imported from Lebanon. The outer coffin had almost completely degraded, but the inner coffin is in excellent condition. The inner coffin was decorated with hieroglyphs and the double Eye of Horus or the Wadjet, which would help protect her soul both in the tomb and in the afterlife. The body would typically be laid on the side so that the face lined up with the eyes. They believed that the deceased could “see” through these eyes and look at the offerings laid out for them. Her mummy was found with its painted mask largely intact.
Her mummy was not that well preserved but she was most likely around 30 years old when she died. But researchers have found remains of a gynecological treatment carried out on Sattjeni. Between her legs, which were originally bandaged, a ceramic bowl with burned remains was found. She had suffered a traumatic injury to her pelvis sometime during her later life. But it is important to note that this injury, which was possibly a fall, did not kill her.
These treatments were described in contemporary medical papyri, but until now no evidence had been found that they were actually carried out. Roast meat, herbs, or rancid milk may have been used in the cup. The presence of the cup in the burial indicates that it was supposed to continue to heal her or at least alleviate her pain in the afterlife.
Feel free to read the article below about Sattjeni, but note that it was written after the discovery of the inscribed bowl, but before the discovery of her tomb.