My name is Sarah Banner and I am a proud volunteer at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. As a recent graduate of photography and having experience in writing, I have been given the very exciting opportunity of documenting the past, present and future of a valuable piece of the museums’ Ancient Egypt collection, the mummy Namenkhetamun.
This particular mummy is named Namenkhetamun (described as “the daughter of Amunkhau”) and we know this due to the hieroglyphs inscribed on the coffin lid. The Egyptians made a conscious effort of having their name preserved in order for their spirit to continue in the afterlife and so would paint the owner’s name onto the lid.
Despite Namenkhetamun being described as “the daughter of Amunkhau”, when this mummy was transported to Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in Stafford, to undergo a CT scan, it revealed the mummy is that of a human male. The exact reason why the coffin may not match the mummy is unknown, though this is acknowledged to have been a possible occurrence when mummies were sold.
It is important to remember that this mummy is not an Ancient object, it is a human being. Certainly, he lived in a different time and culture; however, he would have also had a family and a job to make a living. This is why having a name is an important aspect which allows us to view him not only as an example of a practice but as a person and therefore appreciate his life and his personal history.
Namenkhetamun lived within the 26th Dynasty, so is dated to around 664-525BC. However we have established that the mummy and the coffin do not match. The age of this mummy at the time of his death can be estimated from the CT scans and it has been found that there were signs of early arthritis in the lower spine. Age can also be gauged from the teeth, which did not have much wear but showed significant dental decay and abscesses, which can be caused by the sand from the deserts. This leads us to assume that he was middle-aged when he died.
This mummy is partially unwrapped, as in the past this was necessary in order to reveal any information about a mummy. However, due to technological advances, this is now deemed unnecessary, as information can be gathered from x-rays and CT scans.
No precious items or amulets have been found within the bandages. Regarding the mummification process, however, there are several interesting points, such as the skeleton having an elongated skull, usually seen due to the process of having the brain removed; curiously, there is no evidence to suggest the brain in this particular mummy has been extracted. There has also been less than thorough removal of the organs contained within the chest and abdomen, though those that had been extracted had been returned to the trunk cavity, as was the usual process seen in mummification. We can conclude from this, that it was a sort of “cheap” mummification, as it was usually a process undergone by those who could afford it. The final strange discovery in this mummy has a hole in his back about the size of a fist, for which no explanation can be found.
Namenkhetamun is currently undergoing conservation work and will next go on public discussion as part of the Secret Egypt exhibition.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of Meet the Mummy, where the coffin in which Namenkhetamun rests is covered in more detail.