This week let’s talk about a Roman mummy who has been dubbed Umi! He is located at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Museum of Natural History & Science.
There is very little known about the life of Umi. Umi is not his actual name, but a name that researchers have given him. The name is from African influence and means “life.”
We do know that this was the boy of a very young boy, probably 3 to 5 years old. He died sometime during the Roman Period of Egypt, probably around 100 A.D. Although the Romans ruled over Egypt at this time, Egyptian funerary traditions were still around, though slightly altered.
I couldn’t find out how the mummy came to America, but it seems to have been in the Cincinnati Art Museum since at least the 1970s. It was then in storage until the 1980s when it was x-rayed and possibly displayed in the museum. When this first scan was taken, it was discovered that the mummy was that of a young boy rather than of a “young princess,” as said in the records.
The mummy was then rescanned in 2009 in preparation for a traveling exhibition called “Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science” which was at the Cincinnati Museum Center. During this exhibition, the mummy was donated to the Museum Center from the Art Museum, and it has since been on display in the Museum of Natural History & Science.
It was then rescanned in 2019 at Northern Kentucky University’s Health Innovation Center. Here radiology students and museum professionals analyzed the remains with a single slice X-ray imaging device. This was done for a new exhibit that opened on March 22, 2019.
The mummy of the boy is preserved in a cartonnage, which is a plaster-like material. This is then decorated with images of Egyptian gods and goddesses, including Anubis (or a priest wearing an Anubis helmet) attending to the corpse of the boy laying on a bier. The mummy also shows the face of the boy in a much more realistic manner than many earlier sarcophagi. You can read more about the designs on the cartonnage here.
Although this mummy has not been unwrapped, the different 3D scans have helped us seen inside the mummy. They were able to determine the age of the mummy based on scans of the boys’ teeth and jaw. Scans did show a dusting along with the bones of what looks like cotton fuzz, which may be from insects, but the researchers aren’t sure. They were not able to figure out how the boy died, but they were able to see 24 amulets that had been placed within the wrappings.
A 3D printed replica of the mummy and the amulets was made in 2009 and supposedly a new model was going to be made from the 2019 scans.
Check out these videos about the mummy here!
Mummy being scanned – Northern Kentucky University
Mummy in exhibit and mummy’s face– Northern Kentucky University
CT scan and photos of cartonnage – Elias paper