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 for Women Crush Wednesday, I want to tell you about Nauny, the mummy of an ancient Egyptian priestess located currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Come and take a look at her extensive funerary assemblage!
Nauny (sometimes written as Nany) was an ancient Egyptian priestess from the 21st Dynasty. Her titles are King’s Daughter of His Body, Singer/Chantress of Amun, and Lady of the House. She was probably the daughter of High Priest and later Pharaoh Pinedjem I. It has been assumed that Pinedjem I was her father because Nauny was buried nearby his other daughters and her coffin is very similar to her presumed sister’s Henuttawy.
Her mother’s name, Tentnabekhenu, is only known from her daughter’s Book of the Dead found in her tomb. There has been speculation that she was the daughter of Herihor or possibly a Tanite King.
Nauny was found buried in TT358, which is in Deir el-Bahri. This tomb originally belonged to an early 18th Dynasty queen Ahmose-Meritamen, the sister/wife of Amenhotep I. In Pinedjem’s 19th regnal year, Pinedjem restored the tomb and may have used it for Nauny’s burial.
But her burial was abandoned in disarray in the corridor of TT358. It most likely was looted after being deposited there. The burial party most likely ripped the gold off the coffins before leaving and left the coffins scattered in the hallway. This actually blocked off the burial of Queen Ahmose-Meritamen.
Multiple other items were not looted, which I will talk about after the coffins.
Interestingly, her set of sycamore coffins were originally made for her mother. Nauny’s name and titles are painted over her mother’s name and her similar titles. This was not done very thoroughly, because her mother’s titles are still very visible.
Both the inner (30.3.24a,b) and outer (30.3.23a,b) coffins have pieces missing that most likely contained gold. Again, the face and hands were probably removed by the burial party immediately after the burial. This was not uncommon, unfortunately. There is also a surviving mummy board (30.3.25), which would have been placed over the mummy, but the gilded face was also removed.
Multiple items were found with her coffins. An Osiris statue was found with a hollowed-out center and a hidden circular plug that had been plastered into place. This was a secret compartment that kept Nauny’s Book of the Dead safe.
Her Book of the Dead (30.3.35), also called the Book of Going Forth by Day, contained chapters 128, 30, 75, 115, 132, 94, 71, 72, and 105. Some of the chapters have appropriate illustrations with the text while others are just illustrations. These show Nauny as a young woman in the afterlife. Interestingly, the outside of the scroll is inscribed for her mother, but on the inside, it is inscribed for Nauny.
Another text (30.3.32) was found folded 8 times and laid across the upper legs of the mummy. This is the Amuduat or the Book of That Which is in the Underworld, which is intended to help the deceased successfully pass through the 12 hours of the night. This is a severely abridged version of the text, but it does contain images of Nauny.
A faience scarab amulet (30.3.34) was found on her chest. It shows a scarab on a half-moon-shaped piece of faience. A funerary wreath (30.3.33a) was also found with the body, though it was broken into two pieces by the burial party. One piece was placed on the chest of the mummy and the other was found behind one of the coffins on the floor of the tomb. It is made out of persea leaves and lotus petals. It is sewn with a double stitch over thin strips of palm leaf.
A piece of linen (30.3.36) cut from a fringed shawl was found in one of the many layers that wrapped the mummy. The inscription would have identified the linen’s owner or its quality, but this ink has eaten through the fabric in this case. A wig (30.3.35) was also found near the head of Nauny’s mummy. It was covered with a sticky unguent at the time of discovery, probably cause it was treated with beeswax and animal fat.
Finally, seven shabti boxes were found nearby. These are very plain and painted white. None of them contain inscriptions. Five are located at the MET (184.108.40.206a,b, 220.127.116.11a,b, 18.104.22.168a,b, 22.214.171.124a,b, and 126.96.36.199a,b) and two are located in Cairo (55044 and 55080). These contained 392 shabtis. In large collections of shabtis, which remember are supposed to be “servants” that can help the deceased in the afterlife, overseer shabtis are needed to “oversee” the other shabtis. I have only included a few images of them, but the MET database has photos of all Nauny’s shabtis in their collection.
I could not find any image (or even an accession number?) of Nauny’s mummy, but it was unwrapped. I did find out that her skull is now at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University (61599.0), meaning the rest of the mummy may be lost. It was unwrapped by Winlock at the MET in 1929 or 1930. They found that she was very short (about 4 foot 10 inches) and fat, the latter indicating that she lived a wealthy life. She was about 70 years old at her death, most likely outliving her father.
Her mummy was prepared with attention focused on aesthetic appeal. Her hair was dyed by the embalmers and padding was stuffed under her skin to create a lifelike appearance. Nauny’s face was also painted to restore a more colorful appearance to the corpse.
This week let’s take a look at one of the largest tombs ever found in Luxor, Egypt! In this tomb was the sarcophagus of a woman that we don’t know much about. Her name was Pouyou!
Pouyou was a woman who lived during the 18th dynasty, between 1550 and 1295 B.C.E. Her name can also be written as Pouya. She most likely held some higher status during her life, but her title was unknown. Multiple other mummies were found around her, but it is unclear if these people were related to her.
The mummy was found inside of a white and yellow painted sarcophagus and was in very good condition. When it was discovered in 2018, the sarcophagus was opened while in the tomb. This was the first time Egyptian authorities opened an ancient coffin before an audience of international media. The mummy seemed to be in perfect condition as only the tips of her feet were missing.
Another mummy and sarcophagus from the 17th dynasty was also found nearby, along with the unwrapped mummies found next to Pouyou.
Now Pouyou was found within tomb TT33. This tomb is located in the El-Assasif cemetery across the Nile from Thebes. As of 2008, it was the largest non-royal site in the necropolis. The strangest thing is that this tomb is attributed to Pediamenopet, a prophet and lector priest from the 26th dynasty. So how was an 18th dynasty burial found within it?
Well, Pouyou was found in 2018, when the joint team from the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology and the University of Strasbourg discovered the archaeological deposit inside the enclosure. Pouyou’s tomb was obviously there first, so either Pediamenopet expanded on her original tomb, or he never knew it was there.
The tomb was first discovered in 1737 by Richard Pocke, who found the tomb open. It was more fully examined in 1881 by Johannes Dumichen from the University of Strasbourg, who has continued to examine the tomb. Most recently it was excavated by a French team lead by Frederic Colin from the same university.
The tomb contains 22 rooms connected by long corridors and distributed on three levels extending 20 meters below ground level. It is unclear where Pouyou was found within the tomb, but I am going to presume that she was found in the back of the tomb in the parts that haven’t been fully excavated yet. Interestingly the first three rooms of the tomb were turned into storage in the 1970s for the Egyptian Antiquities Service where more than 1,000 antiquities were stored here until 2005.
This week let’s move to the Third Intermediate Period mummy which is now located in Boston, Massachusetts. Let’s meet Tabes!
Tabes lived during the 22nd Dynasty in the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt, approximately 945 to 818 B.C.E. She and her husband Nesptah lived in Thebes in Upper Egypt. Nesptah has a job as a barber, shaving the heads of the temple priests. Tabes had a job in the temple choir.
It is not known when the mummy left Egypt, but somehow Tabes’ mummy stayed with her husband’s mummy! This is an extremely unique case, which helps us learn about mummification practices within a family. Nesptah is mummified a little bit differently, possibly indicating that when he died, mummification practices had changed.
The mummies were in the possession of Robert Hay, who lived in Limplum, Scotland in 1836. He then sold both mummies to Samuel A. Way in Boston in 1868. After making the trip across the ocean, Tabes and Nesptah’s mummies were donated by Samuel’s son to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1872. Tabes’ museum number is 72.4820c.
During the 22nd dynasty, mummy cases were made out of cartonnage which is like paper mache. First, a core of mud and straw is made in the shape of a mummy. This was then covered in plaster and layers of linen pasted with plant gum. The crafters would leave a hole at the bottom and a slit up the back of the case. The surface was covered with gesso to make it stiff and then the core was removed. The completed mummy was inserted within the stiff core. The back was then sewn up and the foot end plugged with a wooden board.
The final step was for the painters to decorate the case. Tabes’ case is decorated with protective winged deities. Six pairs of wings are wrapped around her stomach, including a falcon with a ram head. There are also pairs of winged goddesses such as Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Selqet.
Because of the beauty and fragility of the mummy case, Tabes has never been unwrapped. So all examinations of the mummy have to be non-invasive.
Between 1983 and 1987, 15 mummies from the MFA Boston were examined at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. CT images were taken of Tabes’ mummy to learn more about her body.
Tabes died in her early 30s (which is interesting because her husband Nesptah died in his 60s). There were no signs of major illness, but she did suffer from dental disease, which was very common for an Egyptian mummy.
The images show a bulge on her neck, which may be due to the packing material. Tabes’ eyes were untreated and shrunk within the sockets. Her nose was slightly crushed because of the cartonnage. Her ears were intact, but her hair had been matted down with resin. You can even see a large embalmer’s incision on her left side.
The CT scans also showed that a metal amulet was placed on her sternum. Another heart scarab with a winged amulet was placed over her ribs.
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.
Why don’t we talk about a more recent find? In 2017, the tomb of a goldsmith and his wife was found in Thebes. Let me introduce you to Amenhotep (and I know, I will explain her name)!
Since this is such a recent discovery, we still don’t know a lot about the goldsmith’s wife. But we know that she lived during the 18th dynasty and was the wife of a royal goldsmith, Amenemhat. Her name was Amenhotep, which is usually a male name. But throughout their tomb, she is titled the Lady of the House, and there is a statue depicting her as a woman. So this just seems to be a unique case for the male name given to a woman.
She had at least one son, who is depicted on a statue in her tomb. She may have had a second son, as another adult was found in the tomb. As a royal goldsmith, they would have lived certainly well-off, but most likely not in the noble class.
Although the female mummy has not been positively identified as that of Amenhotep, this woman most likely died in her 50s. There was also evidence of abscesses on the jaw of this mummy, which indicates a bone infection caused by cavities and may have contributed to her death.
The tomb was discovered in the courtyard of another tomb in Dra Abu el-Naga, a cemetery in western Thebes. This leads to a square chamber with a niche. Inside the niche is a damaged statue of Amenemhet and Amenhotep. As you can see from the photos, conservators have preserved the niche and the statue with tan-colored plaster.
Between the legs of the husband-and-wife statue is a small boy, presumably their son. This is very unique as a daughter is typically portrayed between the legs of her parents. And when a family doesn’t have a daughter, it is usually a daughter-in-law depicted. So this is a very unique family portrait.
Two burial shafts were found in the tomb. The first contained the suspected remains of Amenhotep and her sons. These mummies were unwrapped and skeletonized, indicating that the tomb was probably looted.
The second shaft held multiple skeletons and sarcophagi from the 21st and 22nd Dynasties. Funerary masks, potter, over 150 shabtis, and 50 funerary cones were also found in the tomb.
As I mentioned on Monday, today we are going to talk about Kha’s wife Merit. I have duplicated the text about their tomb below, so if it looks similar to Monday’s post, then that’s why!
Merit was titled Mistress of the House, which was a standard title for women who were in charge of a large household. Women from Deir el-Medina often had a large range of tasks to undertake because the men of the village lived near the worksite for the majority of the week.
Merit had three known children, two sons, Amenemopet and Nakhteftaneb, and a daughter named Merit. Amenemopet seems to have followed his father’s footsteps in becoming an overseer of works while their daughter because a Singer of Amun.
Merit died many years before her husband died, so she was the first one buried in the tomb.
The chapel of Kha and Merit had been found in the early years of the 19th century by Bernardino Drovetti. This stela was found in the pyramid chapel is currently located at the Turin Museum (N.50007), years before Kha and Merit’s items were on display there.
Kha and Merit were buried in TT8 above Deir el-Medina, 25 meters away from the pyramid chapel. The tomb was discovered by Arthur Weigall and Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1906 on behalf of the Italian Archaeological Mission. They were working at the top of the western cemetery when they found the tomb. They were surprised to discover the tomb in the isolated cliffs surrounding the village and not in the immediate proximity of the chapel itself.
The tomb escaped discovery because it was hidden in the hill opposite the chapel, rather than beneath it. This was what Arthur Weigall said when it was found,
“The mouth of the tomb was approached down a flight of steep, rough steps, still half-choked with debris. At the bottom of this, the entrance of a passage running into the hillside was blocked by a wall of rough stones. After photographing and removing this, we found ourselves in a long, low tunnel, blocked by a second wall a few yards ahead. Both these walls were intact, and we realized that we were about to see what probably no living man had ever seen before…”
Two of the walls were removed so that they could stand in a roughly cut corridor about standing height. Lined up against the wall were pieces of burial furniture, several baskets, a couple of amphorae, a bed, and a stool with a carrying pole. At the end was a simple wooden door,
“The wood retained the light color of fresh deal and looked for all the world as though it had been set up but yesterday. A heavy wooden lock held the door fast. A neat bronze handle on the side of the door was connected by a spring to a wooden knob set in the masonry door post; and this spring was carefully sealed with a small dab of stamped clay. The whole contrivance seemed so modern that professor Schiaparelli called to his servant for the key, who quite seriously replied, “I don’t know where it is, sir.” “
The lock was carefully cut with a fret saw and the burial chamber was behind this door. All of the burial items were carefully placed around the room covered with dust sheets. This is also where the coffins of Kha and Merit were located.
This was one of the few tombs of nobility to survive intact. I mentioned the majority of the items found in the tomb on Monday, but today, I’ll talk about the items explicitly buried for Merit. Approximately 196 objects can be attributed to Kha, 39 objects are attributed to Merit, and 6 objects are attributed to both of them.
Like Kha, Merit was also buried with a large bed. This was found made up with sheets, fringed bed covers, towels, and a wooden headrest encased in two layers of cloth. This is almost identical to Kha’s bed, but it is smaller. It rests on lion feet raised on cylindrical wooden pads painted red, while the rest of the bed is painted white.
Merit’s beauty case is one of the most beautiful that has been found. It contains multiple cosmetic vessels like a high necked blue faience jar, an alabaster jar with a silver handle, 3 covered alabaster jars, a conical jar of horn with a bronze handle, and a removable base decorated with a rosette.
Like Kha, she also had various boxes packed with clothing for her to “use” in the afterlife. But one of the most amazing objects found was a wig and a wig case of Merit. Inside the case was a long wig made from human hair, about 54 cm long. It was elaborately crimped with a middle part and the tresses were plaited at the ends. Three long thick plaits are positioned at the back of the wig with two thinner plaits to frame the face. This wig is held together by an elaborate system of knots and weaves. The box was made of acacia wood in the shape of a shrine. On the lid and side of the box, there is a funerary offering formula.
I also want to mention some of the other items that I didn’t get a chance to talk about on Monday. Ten stools were found in the tomb in total. Some were painted white and some had lion paw feet, similar to the bed. Two stools were made out of brown leather and one of those stools actually folded! Interestingly, two of the stools would have been the same type used by artisans in workshops.
There was also a game of senet, which was an ancient Egyptian board game that during the New Kingdom took on a religious aspect. It was used as a way that the ancient Egyptians could play the game against “fate” to earn a place in the afterlife. This one is made out of wood with a sliding drawer to hold all the pieces. On the other side of the board is another game called the Game of Twenty Squares.
Because Merit died at such a young age, she apparently had not had any coffins made for her yet. So, her husband donated his already prepared coffin for her burial. But this coffin was too big for his wife, so Kha’s linens, as they had various laundry marks on them, were used as stuffing around the body.
Merit was buried in two coffins. The outer coffin was in the shape of a large shrine. The lid of her inner coffin was entirely gilded but the box was covered with the black bitumen resin, with only the figures and inscriptions in gold. The eyebrows and eye sockets were made of inlaid blue glass, while the eyes were made of opaque white and translucent glass. Merit also had a cartonnage mask. It was made of linen stuccoed, covered in gold leaf, and inlaid with stone and colored glass. It was found slightly crushed and needed conservation. The left eye was restored and the mask reshaped.
Merit’s mummy, like Kha’s, has never been unwrapped, but it has been studied and scanned extensively. Her body was not as well preserved or wrapped as well as Kha’s. She was also wearing a ton of jewelry like her husband.
She wore a Wesekh or a broad collar which was made of gold interspaced with gemstones. These were probably amethyst, lapis lazuli, carnelian, turquoise, or faience. Merit had two pairs of golden ribbed earrings, which a unique example of a double piercing. These were fashionable of elite women of the mid-18th dynasty. She also wore four finger rings, two of which has a fixed oval plate and two which had a flexible oval plate. One of these rings fell off and was found behind her head.
Merit also wore a matching set including a necklace, a bracelet, and a girdle. The necklace has three rows made of very fine beads connected by fine golden tubes. Some of these pieces and parts of its dislocate elements appear near the ankles. The bracelet follows the same style as the necklace as it is made out of ten rows of fine beads strung between golden elements and a locking end piece. The girdle sits on her waist and is made of fine beads and metal cowrie shell-shaped parts.
No amulets were found on her body probably because of her sudden death. All of these pieces of jewelry are items that she would have worn while she was alive. Merit’s mummy is also wearing a wig, so she was prepared for the afterlife.
Merit was most likely 25 to 35 years old when she died. There was significant post-mortem damage including a depressed thorax, broken rib cage, dislocated spine, and pelvis. There is no evidence of how she died. The mummy had been treated with fish oil, balsam, resin, and beeswax.
This week let’s look at another Egyptologist who specialized in illustrating and copying ancient Egyptian tomb paintings! Her name was Nina de Garis Davies.
Nina was born Anna Machpherson Cummings on January 6th, 1881 in Salonika, Greece. She was the eldest of three daughters of Cecil J. Cummings, who was of English and Scottish ancestry. Her family returned to Aberdeen, Scotland with the death of her father in 1894. They then moved to Bedford where the girls went to private school. Nina showed considerable promise as an artist in her youth. It was so promising that her family moved to London for her training at the Slade School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London.
In 1906, she went to visit a friend in Alexandria, Egypt, which is where she met her future husband Norman de Garis Davies. Norman was born in 1865 and studied theology at Glasgow University and Marburg University before working with Egyptologist Flinders Petrie at Dendera. He later became the head of the Egypt Exploration Fun’s Archaeological Survey and was an expert at interpreting Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Nina and Norman hit it off right away and were married in Hampstead, London on the 8th of October 1907. They settled in the Theban Necropolis and began documenting tomb paintings.
Life in Egypt
One of the first projects the couple worked on was for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York making facsimiles. They did this by tracing the tomb images and then replicating the brushstrokes and colors. In most cases, the copies reflected the actual scene, including any damage to the walls. In other cases, the drawings were rendered to look like they would have when the tomb was originally built thousands of years ago.
Technically, Norman was hired for this position, but Nina was also a part-time worker. Interestingly, most of the time it is difficult to differentiate Nina and Norman’s paintings. Nina signed her work Ni.deGD and Norman signed his pieces No.deGD. But others were signed N.dGD, which makes it entirely unclear.
The tombs were located on the Nile’s west bank of western Thebes, which included the tombs of the officials, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, and the Deir el-Medina. It is one of the “richest sources of ancient Egyptian paintings preserved anywhere in Egypt.”
They started experimenting with color copying in Theban Tomb 45. Usually, copyists used watercolors, but one of their first assistants Francis Unwin suggested the use of tempera, which is a faster drying paint made with egg yolks. First, the artist does a pencil tracing against the wall and then painted the rest by eye.
Nina’s paintings were also recognized by another Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner, who acquired as many of her paintings as possible between 1909 and 1929. These were then published in two volumes of Ancient Egyptian paintings.
Nina is specifically credited for plates in publications of the Tomb of Amenemhet, Huy, and Ramose. She and her husband also worked for the Egypt Exploration Society and the Oriental Institute by documenting other Egyptian sites like Abydos and Amarna.
Nina and Norman lived in a house in Qurna until 1939 when they moved back to England. They most likely left because of Norman’s age and the MMA policy. But their house was not emptied, implying that they may come back. Norman died in 1941 and Nina got to work organizing his objects, books, and papers. She reorganized the material for his publication of the Temple of Hibis in el-Kharga Oasis III. She then cataloged the textile collection of P.E. Newberry, aided Gardiner in editing Seven Private Tombs at Kurneh, and painted facsimiles of all sides of the box of Tutankhamun in 1962.
Nina died in 1965 but she lives on in her paintings, which help preserve and document the tombs of the Theban Necropolis.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has 413 pieces by Nina and Norman de Garis Davies. 157 were painted by Nina, 15 have both their names, and 59 are signed by Norman.
The British Museum has 22 of Nina’s paintings which were donated in 1936 by Alan Gardiner. Some more of her paintings can be found here.
Egypt Exploration Fund (Egypt); Nina Macpherson Davies; Norman de Garis Davies, Alan Henderson Gardiner (1915). The Theban Tombs Series. Edited by Norman de Garis Davies and Alan H. Gardiner.
Nina de Garis Davies; Sir Alan H. Gardiner (1923). Facsimiles of Theban Wall-paintings by Nina de Garis Davies Lent by Alan H. Gardiner. Victoria and Albert Museum.
Norman de Garis Davies (1901). The Rock Tombs of Sheikh Saïd. Sold at the Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
Norman de Garis Davies; Walter Ewing Crum; George Albert Boulenger (1902). The Rock Tombs of Deir El Gebrâwi: Tomb of the Aba and smaller tombs of the southern group. Sold at the offices of the Egypt exploration fund.
Norman de Garis Davies; Seymour de Ricci; Geoffrey Thorndike Martin (1906). The Rock Tombs of El-A̕marna: The tomb of Meyra. Sold at the Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
Norman de Garis Davies; Seymour de Ricci (1908). The Rock Tombs of El Amarna: Smaller tombs and boundary stelae.
Norman de Garis Davies; Seymour de Ricci; Geoffrey Thorndike Martin (1908). The Rock Tombs of El-A̕marna: The tomb of Meyra. Sold at the Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
Norman de Garis Davies (1911). Graphic Work of the Egyptian Expedition. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Norman de Garis Davies; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) (1911). The Rock-cut Tombs of Shiekh Abd El Qurneh, at Thebes. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Norman de Garis Davies (1913). Five Theban Tombs: (being Those of Mentuherkhepeshef, User, Daga, Nehemawäy and Tati). London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner.
Norman de Garis Davies (1917). The tomb of Nakht at Thebes. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Norman de Garis Davies; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). Egyptian Expedition (1933). The tomb of Nefer-hotep at Thebes. Arno Press.
Norman de Garis Davies (1920). An Alabaster Sistrum Dedicated by King Teta. Egypt Exploration Society.
Norman de Garis Davies; Alan Henderson Gardiner (1920). The Tomb of Antefoker, Visier of Sesostris I, and of His Wife, Senet. Allen & Unwin, under the auspices of the Egypt Exploration Society.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). Egyptian Expedition; Norman de Garis Davies (1918). The Egyptian Expedition, 1916-17. The Museum.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). Egyptian Expedition; Ambrose Lansing; Norman de Garis Davies, Hugh Gerard Evelyn-White (1920). The Egyptian Expedition, 1916-1919. The Museum.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.); Albert Frisch; Emery Walker, Nina De Garis Davies, Norman de Garis Davies (1925). Egyptian Wall Paintings from Copies by Norman de Garis Davies, Nina de Garis Davies and H.R. Hopgood. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.