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 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 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!
Let me present you with another mystery this week! Today I will be talking about the Younger Lady, a mummy found in the KV35 cache who has yet to be identified by name. Because we don’t know who she is, the information will be presented a little differently this week.
The mummy dubbed the Younger Lady was found with two other mummies in side chamber Jc of KV35. This again was a cache of looted New Kingdom mummies placed there by priests from the Third Intermediate Period. The Elder Lady and the mummy of a young boy were found next to her. The Elder Lady has now been identified as Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III, and the young boy is suspected to either be Prince Tuthmose or Webensenu.
All three of these mummies were completely naked, with no wrappings or coffins. Other mummies in this cache were found in labeled coffins or were given linen dockets to identify them. This of course adds to the mystery of why these three mummies were treated so differently from those in the rest of the cache. The Younger Lady is also called KV35YL or 61072, the latter of which is her accession number at the Cairo Museum.
The mummy of the Younger Lady was originally determined to be of a man by Loret, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb. This mistake was probably made because of the mummy’s shaved head, which was typical of male Egyptians. When G. Elliot Smith later examined the mummy, he determined that it was of a female.
She was anywhere from 25 to 35 years old when she died. She was 5 foot 2 inches tall and quite thin. The mummy is in very bad condition, though only some of the wounds were postmortem.
The only perimortem (before death) injuries are those found on the face. The Younger Lady has a gaping wound on the left side of her mouth and cheek. Some fractured facial bones are missing and a roll of resin-soaked linen was placed in the wound by the embalmers. Scholars have determined that this wound would have likely been fatal, but they have not determined how this injury occurred. It could have been the result of a heavy object hitting her face, the Younger Lady getting kicked in the face by an animal like a horse, or a chariot accident. There are also theories of deliberate violence like her being hit with an ax.
The other injuries can be attributed to the looters. She has a small oval-shaped hole in the front of her skull and bone fragments were found within the cavity. Apparently, there was no attempt to embalm or remove her brain as it is found shrunken in her skull. The front wall of her chest is also almost entirely missing. Her heart was left in place and remains visible in her chest cavity. The diaphragm had two holes where the lungs were removed in the embalming process. In addition, her torso was packed with linen.
Her pelvis was fractured, her legs damaged, and the front half of both of her feet are missing. She also had a double piercing on her left earlobe. Finally, her right arm is missing. Two severed arms were found in KV35 and compared with the body. One was bent at the elbow and would have laid over her chest, while the other was straight. At first, the bent arm was believed to be hers, but it was proven to be too long in relation to the attached arm. So, it is believed that the other straight arm which is of equal size is the matching arm.
There have been multiple theories about the identity of this mummy. G. Elliot Smith believed that she lived during the reign of Amenhotep II, but many of the more recent theories push this toward the reign of Amenhotep III and his son.
Marianne Luban proposed that the Younger Lady was Queen Nefertiti in 1999, a theory that has taken a life of its own. She based this mostly on the measurements between the mummy and the statue of Nefertiti, which were very close in size. She also pointed out the shaved head, the impression of a headband on her forehead, and the double ear piercing, all of which could point to a royal mummy. You can read her article here!
Joanne Fletcher supported this claim in 2003 pointing out all the same evidence that Luban did. She was actually allowed to examine the Younger Lady, which is when they found one of the detached arms wrapped in the bandages by her legs. But this was the flexed arm, which as I mentioned most likely does not belong to the Younger Lady. Fletcher used this as evidence that the mummy was royal because female royal mummies have one arm down and one arm flexed over the chest. But this is not a definitive factor as there are royal female mummies who have both arms down.
Dennis Forbes proposed that the mummy is Sitamun, a daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye. This theory was based on the two other mummies found with the Younger Lady, the Elder Lady, and the young boy. Again the Elder Lady has been identified as Tiye, Sitamun’s mother, and one of the main theories for the identity of the mummy of the young boy is Prince Tuthmose, Sitamun’s brother.
The other theories are mostly based on DNA tests were conducted on the mummy. These were conducted between 2007 and 2009 for the Cairo Museum’s Family of King Tutankhamun Project. These results told us that this woman was the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye, the full sister of the mummy found in KV55, who is presumably Akhenaten, and the mother of King Tutankhamun!!
Based on the DNA results (which you can read more about here), most scholars believe that the mummy is not Nefertiti or Kiya, another wife of Akhenaten who had been considered Tutankhamun’s mother. This is because neither woman was ever referred to as the King’s Sister or King’s Daughter. These titles would have been used throughout their life, even after they married. So because Nefertiti and Kiya are never shown with these titles, they have been excluded as possible daughters of Amenhotep III and Tiye.
Sitamun, Isis, and Hennuttaneb are three daughters of Amenhotep III that have been considered but also excluded based on titles. These three daughters were married to their father at the end of his reign. And because of that prestigious title, they would have become Akhenaten’s principal wife if he wanted to marry them. Meaning they would have taken precedent over Nefertiti, who was a non-royal, which we know didn’t happen. Nebptah and Beketaten are two other daughters of Amenhotep III who were not known to have married their father, so they are likely candidates.
Nonetheless, even though she was the daughter, sister, married to, and mother of a king, she does not seem to be a prominent figure in her lifetime. No inscriptions, reliefs, or statues have even been found of her. Nothing in King Tutankhamun’s vast tomb even references her. All evidence points to his mother dying before he rose to the throne and that she was a minor wife of Akhenaten. There is also a slim possibility that this woman was not married to Akhenaten, but part of his harem.
Facial Reconstruction and Controversy
In 2018, the mummy of the Younger Lady was featured on the seventh episode of the fifth season of Expedition Unknown, entitled “Great Women of Ancient Egypt.” Josh Gates the host and his guests were all under the presumption that the Younger Lady is the mummy of Nefertiti, which is a belief some scholars still hold. They used the preserved remains, modern technology, and artistry to present a reconstruction of what the Younger Lady looked like. The bust was created by French paleo-artists Elisabeth Daynes.
Again, because they presumed that the mummy was of Nefertiti, the reconstruction wore Nefertiti’s iconic crown and broad collar. Putting aside the controversial choice to depict the mummy as Nefertiti after the DNA tests had most likely ruled her out, the reconstruction received a lot of controversies.
Many people were upset with the color of her skin tone, mainly it being too light. The artists said that it was compared to the skin ton of modern Egyptians, but many were concerned that she was being white-washed. Some scholars agreed, but other scholars pointed out that there would have been a great mixture of races in the royal harems, including Caucasians. But the Younger Lady would have most certainly been more brown.
Aside from the royal regalia and the color of her skin, the face is claimed to be forensically accurate to the face of the Younger Lady.
This week let’s take a look at another pharaoh from the 19th dynasty, Seti II!
Seti II was the son of Pharaoh Merenptah and his wife Isetnofret II. He was probably born in the Lower Egyptian capital of Pi-Ramesses, where many of the kings of the 19th Dynasty ruled.
There was some contest for the throne when Merenptah died. Most likely, Seti II rose to the throne as his son, but during the fourth year of his reign, a man named Amenmesse took control of Thebes and Upper Egypt. Who Amenmesse was is a whole different question, but it has been theorized that he was the brother, half-brother, or even son of Seti II.
Seti II was able to take back Upper Egypt before the 5th year of his reign. He then proceeded with a smear campaign of Amenmesse. Seti II’s throne name was Userkheperure Setepenre, meaning “Powerful are the manifestations of Re, the chosen one of Re.”
During his reign, he expanded the copper mines at Timna Valley in Edmon and built a temple of Hathor nearby. He also made small additions to the temple complex of Karnak.
Seti II was married two at least to women Twosret and Takhat. If the theories that Amenmesse was his son are true, then he may have also been married to his mother Tiaa. Seti only had one son, Seti-Merenptah, but he sadly died before his father. This left a serious succession crisis when Seti II died.
Death and Tomb
Seti II only ruled for about 5 years and 10 months. Siptah was named successor of Seti, but after his short reign, Queen Twosret took the throne as Pharoah!
KV13 was Seti II’s tomb built in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes. During Amenmesse’s takeover, Seti’s name was removed from the tomb. It was then recarved when Seti took power. Unfortunately, the tomb was not finished when he died, so he may have been originally buried in his wife’s tomb, KV14, before being moved.
The tomb consists of a short entry corridor, three more corridors, a well chamber (although with no well), a four-pillared hall, and then the final corridor leading to the burial chamber. The walls and the ceiling of the chamber were covered with plaster and painted with images of Anubis, Osiris, and the goddess Nut on the ceilings. It features images of different funerary texts like the Litany of Re, the Amduat, and the Book of the Gates. There are also some very unique images of Seti on a shrine, on the back of a panther, and in a papyrus skiff.
The tomb was opened in antiquity as there are several Greek and Latin graffiti. Richard Pococke apparently performed the first brief excavations in 1738. But Howard Carter did a full excavation from 1903 to 1904. The tomb was then used as a makeshift laboratory for the cleaning of objects found in King Tut’s tomb.
When the tomb was discovered only the lid of his sarcophagus was found. So where was his mummy? Like many of the New Kingdom mummies, priests in the Third Intermediate Period removed looted mummies of pharaohs and placed them in caches.
The mummy of Seti II was found in KV35, which was used as a mummy cache. This was discovered on March 19th, 1899. The mummy, which I will describe below, was found in an uninscribed and undecorated coffin (CG 61036-7). The original decoration was adzed off and it was then covered in a layer of plaster.
There was no lid for the coffin, but a lid inscribed for Seti II was discovered on the coffin where Amenhotep III was found.
Interestingly, in 1908 Egyptologist Edward R. Ayrton found a small tomb in the Valley of the Kings, KV56. This tomb contained a small cache of jewelry that featured the name of Seti II, including these earrings.
The body was severely damaged in antiquity. The body has adze marks from the tool used to strip away the original bandages. Part of the chest wall has been broken away, which seems to have happened before the body was wrapped. Perhaps in a bad mummification job?
The head was found detached from the body along with the arms. The right forearm, hand, and several of the left fingers were missing. There was also a small hole in his skull, which has been similarly found on the skulls of Merenptah, Ramesses IV, Ramesses V, and Ramesses VI.
Several objects were placed with the mummy, either when it was originally buried or when it was rewrapped in the cache. There were blue faience wdat amulets on strings which were wound up from his ankles to his knees. Blue scarabs were attached to the ends of these strings. Finally, there were three small sphinx amulets on top of the right knee.
The mummy’s original wrappings had been covered with a shroud, where there was a small docket giving the name of Seti II. Clothing had also been employed to wrap the mummy. Reportedly there were also two intact shirts made of fine muslin were found among the wrappings along with pieces from several other garments. The cartouche of Merenptah and two other hieratic inscriptions were found on the shirt. There was also apparently red and blue fringing on some of the wrappings.
The mummy was just recently moved from the Cairo Museum in Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in April 2021.
This week, lets talk about an elusive mummy that is located in Bridgeport, Connecticut at the Barnum Museum. This mummy was originally labeled as Pa-Ib based on the name on the sarcophagus, but this has been proved to not be the name of the mummy. So, the mummy is technically known at the Barnum Mummy!
Like many of the other mummies I’ve talked about, there is very little known about this mummy. This is especially so, because this poor woman is not in her own coffin. We know that this woman most likely lived in the Middle Kingdom meaning she is about 4000 years old. It is unclear what position she may have held, but she could have easily been a servant or housewife. She probably died when she was 28 to 32 years old.
After the discovery that the coffin and mummy were not meant to, the museum staff wanted to give her a name. They decided on Ipy, which means “Most favorite,” and was a contemporary name to her time.
In 1894, Nancy Fish Barnum, the second wife and widow of P.T. Barnum, acquired the mummy and coffin in Egypt. She later presented it to the Bridgeport Scientific Society and Fairfield County Historical Society (1894.1. A-C). Later this would become the Barnum Museum.
The mummy was publicly unwrapped in August of 1894. The audience remarked on the “thousands of yards of linen bandages,” and the “peculiar and slightly disagreeable odor.” While at the museum, it has been scanned several times to learn more of the mummy.
In 2006, the mummy and coffin were examined, mainly to confirm if it was a legit Egyptian mummy. Barnum had previously created a fake mermaid mummy, so there may have been some speculation that this was a fake. The mummy was proven to be genuine, but this was when the coffin was discovered to not be originally meant for the mummy.
This of course blew everyone’s theories about the mummy out the window, but I will talk about the mummy below. First let’s talk about the coffin.
This coffin was made for a man name Pa-ib, who lived during the 25th or 26th dynasties. Pa-ib was the third prophet for the god Min, who is a god of fertility and creation. The coffin may have been made in the Upper Egyptian city of Akhmin, based on the decoration and that Min is their city god. That means that this coffin is only 2500 years old compared to the mummy!
It wasn’t until 2006 that the mummy was identified as a female. It was scanned at the nearby Quinnipiac University, where it was also scanned in 2010. The mummy was CT scanned, x-rayed, and fluoroscopically scanned. There were also endoscopic explorations, which may have helped discover that the mummy’s heart is missing.
She would have been five foot tall and again, 28 to 32 years old when she died. Her teeth were very worn, almost flat, with various dental infections. There were also four bundles found within her chest cavity. One was originally thought to contain a bird, but this was disproven. At least one of the bundles contains her internal organs, as was a typical tradition of this time. The head of the mummy was also examined separately because it had been separated during the unwrapping in the 1800s. Again, the scholars estimated that this woman did not do any hard labor, indicating that she may have been a household servant or housewife.
Check out these three videos about the Barnum Mummy!
This week let’s talk about the founder of the 19th Dynasty, Ramesses I.
Ramesses I was born Pa-ra-mes-su to a noble military family from the Nile Delta. His father was a troop commander named Seti and his uncle was Khaemwaset, an army officer married to Tamwajesy, matron of the Harem of Amun. He was born during the rise and fall of the Amarna Period, which was a very turbulent period of Egyptian history.
After the death of Pharaohs Tutankhamun and Ay, General Horemheb took the throne, making Ramesses I his vizier. He had several other titles such as,
“Chief of the Archers, Master of the Horse, Commander of the Fortress, Controller of the Nile Mouth, Charioteer of His Majesty, King’s Envoy to Every Foreign Land, Royal Scribe, Colonel, General of the Lord of the Two Lands, Chief of the Seal, Transporter of His Majesty, Royal Messenger for all Foreign Countries, Chief of the Priests of all Gods.”
Horemheb had no children so he was in search of an heir, which is found in Ramesses. This may be because Ramesses already had a son, Seti I, and grandson Ramesses II so that the rule will stay in the family. Ramesses then became the “prince of the whole country, mayor of the city, and vizier,” as it is stated on a statue of him found in Karnak.
As mentioned, Ramesses I married a woman named Sitra who also came from a military family. They had one son, who would later become Pharaoh Seti I. He probably rose to the throne when he was in his 50s, which was quite old for an ancient Egyptian king. His prenomen was Menpehtyre, meaning “Established by the strength of Ra,” though he preferred to use his personal name Ramesses, which meant “Ra bore him.”
Ramesses I only ruled for about 16 or 17 months, either from 1292-1290 or 1295-1294 B.C.E. During his reign, he probably took care of domestic matters, while his son was in charge of undertaking military operations. Ramesses was able to complete the second pylon of Karnak Temple, which was started by Horemheb. He also ordered the provision of endowments for a Nubian temple at Buhen.
Death and Tomb
Since his rule was so short, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was hastily finished. KV16 is located directly across from Horemheb’s tomb. It is 29 meters long with a long single corridor and one unfinished room. First, there is one long flight of stairs with an entryway. Then there is a downward corridor with smooth walls but no plaster, followed by a second stairway. This is built into the rock with two deep ledges on either side. While the next chamber would typically be a well chamber, this is where the burial chamber is.
This chamber is a very small room with an immense sarcophagus made of red granite. This was painted rather than carved, probably due to a lack of time. The chambers are decorated with depictions of the Book of the Gates, which is a funerary text from the New Kingdom. It describes the nocturnal journey of the sun through the 12 gates which create the hours of the night. The images are very distinct as they all have a blue-grey background, which is the same style as Horemheb’s tomb.
Check out this link to learn more about the depictions in the tomb.
What Happened to his Mummy?
The tomb was discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in 1817. All that remained in the tomb was the damaged sarcophagus, a pair of six-foot wooden guardian statues once covered in gold foil, and some statues of underworld deities. But there was no mummy. So where was it?
The first clue was found in 1881 when the Deir el-Bahri cache was found. Here a fragmented coffin contained inscriptions telling us that the mummy of Ramesses I was removed from KV17 and placed in DB320 in Year 10, 4 prt, Day 17 of Siamun. The whole inscription on this coffin docket is below. This indicated that the priests of the Third Intermediate Period moved Ramesses I’s mummy from KV16 to KV17 before moving it to DB320. So, the mummy should be in DB320, right?. Unfortunately, not.
“(Yr 10 4 prt 17 of) king (nsw) Siamun. (Day of bringing king Men)pehtyre out of the (tomb of king Menmaatre-) Setymer(en)ptah (that he might be) taken into this high place (k3y) of Inhapi which is a (great pla)ce (st c3t) (and in which Amen)ophis rests, by the prophet of Amon (-Re king) of the gods Ankhefenamun son of Baky, and the god’s father of Amon (-Re king) of the gods, third prophet of Khonsemwast-Neferhotep, the scribe of off(erings of the house of Amon-Re) king of the gods, sm-priest of the temple of (Usermaatre-Setepenre) in the house of Amun, general of Tasetmerydjhuty, scribe and chief agent Nespakashuty son of Bak(en)khons. Afterwards Mut, the one having the authority over the great place (st wrt) said: (That which was in good condition in my care…)”
In the late 90s, a mummy was discovered that had many indications of being a royal mummy, possibly that of Ramesses I.
This mummy was purchased by Dr. James Douglas in 1861 and brought to the United States. It was then sold to Colonel Sidney Barnett, son of the founder of the Niagara Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame. The mummy stayed in the museum for the next 130 years, labeled as one of the possible wives of Akhenaten, maybe even Nefertiti?
In 1985, a German technician named Meinhard Hoffman persuaded a German television station to conduct a scientific examination of the mummy. Dr. Anne Eggebrecht examined the mummy and first discovered that it was a male. Dr. Wolfgang Pahl and his assistant Lisa Bark noted many features that could have been one of the missing New Kingdom mummies, such as the crossed arms and the hands clenched. There was also a coffin in the museum dated to the late 18th and early 19th dynasty.
The museum went under in the late 90s, and the Egyptian antiquities were purchased by the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University for 2 million dollars. Here the mummy went through CT-scanning and carbon dating. Based on the CT scans, x-rays, skull measurements, radiocarbon dating, and the overall look of the mummy, it was proposed to be the mummy of Ramesses I.
This most likely means that the Abu-Rassul family who found DB320 in 1871 (and thus put many items out on the antiquities market for years without detection) may have found the tomb almost 11 years earlier. It is thought that Ramesses I’s mummy was taken by the family and sold in 1860.
Based on all the evidence, the Egyptian government requested the mummy be returned to Egypt. It was returned on October 6th, 2003, and is now located at the Mummification Museum in Luxor, Egypt. Not all scholars agree that this is Ramesses I, but agree that it was a noble from the 18th or 19th dynasty, maybe even the mummy of Horemheb.
The mummy in question is 1.60 meters tall and died when he was 35 to 45 years old. It is very well preserved for his perilous journey. An incision was made in the left abdomen through which the internal organs had been removed and replaced with linen packing. The brain was extracted through the nose and the skull was filled with liquid resin. These are all typical of the late 18th and early 19th dynasties.
One of the mummy’s ears was deformed, which could have been a result of a poorly done ear piercing procedure. Although there is no other indication of how the pharaoh may have died, this ear infection could have contributed to his death.
This week’s Mummy Monday is a little different. We don’t know the identity of this mummy, but her remains tell us a very unique story. Let’s talk about the tattooed mummy from Deir el-Medina.
The tattooed torso of a woman was found and excavated in 2014. This was found within the assemblage that was stored in TT291 in Deir el-Medina, though it is believed that the assemblage was originally found in TT290, the tomb right next door.
Tomb 290 was originally the tomb of Irynefer, a necropolis workman who lived in Deir el-Medina during the Ramesside Period, 19th to 20th Dynasties. It is a small shaft tomb underneath a pyramid chapel. It was most likely looted in antiquity and then used for later burials. The tomb was discovered in 1922 and some of it was excavated in 1922. From pictures from the original excavation were full of comingled remains.
These remains were most likely moved to TT291 in 2004 in preparation for the public exhibition of Tomb 290. Anne Austin, an Egyptologist working for the Institute Francais d’Archaeologie Orientale’s mission to Deir el-Medina in 2014 researched the remains found. She determined that there were the remains of at least 26 individuals.
The torso also dates to the Ramesside Period (1300 – 1070 BCE). It was found unwrapped, except for one layer of bandages on the right forearm. The head, hands, and legs are no longer present. The mummy was at one point eviscerated, but there is no visceral cut. Rather there is a transvaginal or transperineal cut. While this practice wasn’t the most popular, there is evidence for this technique in other New Kingdom mummies.
Because the skull was missing, this made it very difficult to estimate the age of the mummy. But with the remaining bones of the torso, an estimation was made of 25 to 34 years old. She may have been mummified with the use of resins and this actually disguised some of the tattoos. Because of the looted state of the tomb, there is no way to tell if the mummy originally had any burial equipment when she was buried.
When the torso was discovered, Anne Austin noticed the marking on the neck of the mummy, but originally thought these were painted on post-mortem. But upon further investigation, these marks were tattoos. Tattoos in Egypt began to appear in the Middle Kingdom and evidence suggests that only women got tattoos.
Anne Austin published a paper and gave a talk about the finds on this mummy. When investigating the torso further, she was able to find many more tattoos. She also used infrared photography to find tattoos that had faded. A computer program called DStretch was used to flesh out and stretch the skin so that the tattoos looked more like they would have before mummification.
There is evidence that someone else would have had to apply some of these, as they are unreachable for the person to tattoo themselves. This implies that there was some sort of tattoo artist or system of tattooing established. There is also considerable variation in the darkness of the tattoos. This could imply that the applications of some tattoos were less effective, the tattoos may have naturally diffused over time, or some other process made the tattoos fade. If the tattoos naturally diffused over time, it implies that this woman received the tattoos over a couple of years rather than all at once.
In total 30 tattoos were found, but there may have been more on the parts of the body that were lost. The tattoos are found on the neck, shoulders, back, and arms. These locations are a slight departure from previous tattoos found on mummies. Usually, tattoos are found in more private places, where the tattoos would not be visible on an everyday basis. These are then associated with eroticism. Previous Egyptologists have remarked that tattooed Egyptian women were “prostitutes of dubious origins.”
But these tattoos, except for one on the lower back, are all in very visible places. I’ll talk about the interpretations of the individual tattoos and them as a whole after, but first, let’s take a look at them!
Anne Austin has labeled all of the individual tattoos by T- and then a number. I’ll be talking about them in groups because many of these tattoos are symmetrical! Check out her article here to see a table of all the tattoos and their interpretations!
On the neck, there are two symmetrical seated baboons (T01 & T02) on either side of Wadjet eye (or Eye of Horus) (T03) on top of two Wadjet eyes with two nefers in between them (T04). These are very visible and were the first tattoos noticed. Nefer is the hieroglyph that means “good” or “beautiful.”
On the left and right shoulder, there are matching symbols of two Wadjet eyes around three nefers (T05 & T06). There is also either a uraeus or a snake (T07 & T08) and another tattoo on either side that could not be discerned (T09 & T10). Below on the right shoulder is a girdle knot hieroglyph (T11) and a cobra (T13). Below on the left shoulder is just a cobra (T12).
This is where the tattoos begin to differentiate. Following the right arm down, there is a cross-shape (T15), a uraeus (T21), a Hathor handle (T22), an unknown tattoo (T23), possibly a bouquet of flowers (T24), and a snake with a basket (T25). On the left, there is a cross-shape (T14), a uraeus (T16), a snake with a solar disk (T17), dual khepri beetles or a sistrum (T18), faded hieroglyphs below a snake the signs mx wab (T19), and Hathor cows (T20).
On the upper back, there are a few asymmetrical tattoos. There is a hieroglyph of a clump of papyrus with the buds bending down and the signs for mw (T27), a Wadjet eye with the signs for mw (T28), and a Wadjet presented by a baboon (T29). Finally, the largest tattoo is found on the lower back. It is a series of dots connecting two lotus blossoms which are located on the back of the hips (T30).
The tattoos appear like amulets on the body which implies their meaning is of a magical or protective kind. This may have been a way to permanently attach the magical power of the amulet to one person. This could have been done to ensure healing and/or protection against illness, which would imply that this woman was very ill during her life. Unfortunately, because of the damage to the body, that is hard to discern.
Many of the tattoos can be associated with gods such a Thoth in the baboons and Hathor in the Hathor handle and cows. The Wadjet eyes and the nefer signs could be translated as “seeing the beauties” or as a votive formula, ir nfr ir nfr, or “do good, do good.”
The Hathor handle, which is pretty much a handle of something (usually a sistrum) with the face of Hathor, is upside down as if to mimic its position when held during use. This would have been “activated” by dance or movement, which would mean that every movement of this woman’s arm would ritually shake the handle.
While some of the tattoos are connected with the idea of power and divine action, most of them have to do with some sort of protective magic. This links the woman to the cult of Hathor, which would have empowered her to take on important cultic or magical roles. These tattoos help us conclude that she might have taken on one of several important roles in the cults of ancient Egypt, either as a wise woman, priestess, or healer.
You can also watch Anne talk about this find in the video below.