Volume 4 (2021)

Cover of issue 4 of JHIE.

Special issue on mummification

Front Matter

Editorial, Prologues, etc.

Karapanagiotou, Anna-Vasiliki; Lazaris, Panagiotis; Grigoraki, Argyro; Nikolentzos, Konstantinos:

The Collection of Egyptian Antiquities in the National Archaeological Museum and the Athens Mummy Project

The National Archaeological Museum was founded in 1829 and it was the first one of the Hellenic state after the successful revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman rule. At the beginning it was placed in Aegina, the first capital of Greece. When Athens became the official capital of Greece in 1834, the National Archaeological Mu­seum was transferred there as well. In 1866, after the donation of the land by E. Tositsas and the financing of Benardakis family, the construction of the present building began and in 1889, the Museum was ready to welcome its public. Among the various antiquity collections, the Museum had the chance to acquire through donations a considerable amount of Egyptian Antiquities that cover all periods of ancient Egyptian civilizati­on, thus creating an Egyptian Collection which is one of the most fascinating and enchanting of the Museum.

Maravelia, Alicia:

Death and Mummification in Ancient Egypt: An Overview

This review paper provides a summary of our current knowledge concerning mummification in ancient Egypt. Using interactive media and breath–taking pictures, it shows the importance and the particularly metaphysi­cal character of embalmment, as well as its cosmic and astronomical extensions and its absolutely equilibra­ted integration into the beam of burial customs and rituals. It briefly analyses the concomitant funereal magi­co–religious habits (emphasizing the Opening the Mouth of the deceased). Reference will be also given to the inscriptions on the coffins (being mostly Offering Formulas) and their relation to the mummification process and the funereal beliefs of the ancient Nile–Dwellers. The unique scope of the apparently «death–centered», but actually life–centered, perspective of the Egyp­tians was the perpetuation of life after death and the smo­oth transition/passage of the deceased into the bliss of (a celestial) eternal life, in the Kingdom of Osiris.

Couvaris, Constantinos:

Human Decomposition: Its Stages and Progress Before or During the Mummification Process

Natural mummification is a process that stops or delays human decomposition, especially in a dry environ­ment as in Egypt. The factors that influence the rate of the decomposition are mostly the external ones. Anthro­pogenic mummification is a human–made effort to prepare the dead for an afterlife. Often things were going wrong and tissues were destroyed, accidentally or intentionally, before, during and after the mummification process. The ancient embalmers found some interesting ways to preserve the body and give a lifelike appea­rance to the dead. In this short review paper we discuss all this, with emphasis in the process of putrefaction.

Bontozoglou, Nikolaos; Maravelia, Alicia; Pantazis, Ioannis; Kalogerakou, Kleanthi; Michailidis, Georgios; Kalampoukas, Kiriakos; Couvaris, Constantinos; Kyriazi, Stavroula:

The Athens Mummy Project in Context: Exciting and Unexpected Results from the CT–Scanning of Five Mummies of the National Archaeological Museum

The Hellenic Institute of Egyptology —in close collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and the Athens Medical Centre— performed a joint Research Project (= Athens Mummy Project), an original and unique up to now endeavour for Hellas. Five out of the ten Ptolemaic mummies coming from Panopolis, the sarcophagi of which have been studied earlier egyptologically [Maravelia & Cladaki–Mano­li 2004; Maravelia 2005] have been examined with a non–invasive method, using Computed Tomography (CT) with up–to–date te­chniques and Scanners, in order to examine and study them also from a medical, an­thro­pological and forensic perspective. The results of this study are not only encouraging [Maravelia, Bon­tozo­glou, Kalogerakou et al. 2019], but very interesting too, some of them being unique and unexpected [Mi­chailidis, Kyriazi, Maravelia et al. 2019; Kalampoukas, Kyriazi, Maravelia et al. 2020; Pantazis, Tour­na, Maravelia et al. 2020]. In this pa­per, after a short introduction to the Research Project, we shall summa­rize the context as well as the principal results of our study, presenting more exciting results.

Martin, Anaïs:

Sans Cœur et sans Reproche! ᾿Ib et ḤƷty à l'Épreuve du Jugement Divin

The heart plays an important role in the funerary rites accompanying the transformation of the (human) deceased into an Ʒḫ–spirit, both during mummification and in the judgment in the afterlife. Its am­bivalent identification with the lexemes i͗b and ḥƷty, however, makes this notion complex and its study some­times con­fusing. Thus, the analysis of these different elements in the funerary literature makes it possible to assess the real stakes of these ritual practices and to shed light on certain aspects of the conception of the per­son in anci­ent Egyptian thought, opposing a purely physical character of the treatment of the body to a so­cial principle based on the moral qualities of the individual.

Perraud, Annie:

Le cerveau, ce méconnu, et la momification en Égypte ancienne

According to a common idea, the Egyptians did not give importance to the brain during mummifica­tion. Thus, it could be left in place or removed during the surgical phase. What could be the treatment given to this organ during excerebration? What was the consequence of the choice selected by the embalmer for the deceased’s head conservation? Through the study of medical and funerary texts, different items appear aga­inst this idea, and the importance of this anatomical element shows up.

Muñoz Pérez, Carmen:

Les amulettes funéraires égyptiennes: approche technologique

En dépit de leur petite taille, les amulettes étaient des objets très courants dans l’Égypte antique, employées tant dans la vie que dans l’au-delà. Leur diversité typologique étant considérable, l’application de la méthode de tomographie (CT–Scanning) à l’étude des momies égyptiennes révèle des conclusions non seulement intéressantes pour le domaine de la médecine ou l’anthropologie, mais aussi de la magie et des rituels funéraires. À partir de la comparaison de quelques momies exemplaires, le présent article propose une vision d’ensemble des amulettes qui ont été véritablement utilisées dans le rituel de la momification, présentées de manière chronologique.

Stark, Robert J.; Bács, Tamás A.:

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH) in a Mummy from the Theban Necropolis

The vertebral pathological condition known as Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH) has infre­quently been reported convincingly in ancient Egyptian human remains. Here we describe and illustrate a near textbook example in a partial adult torso identified as Mummy 10 from the forecourt of TT 66–Saff Tomb 1, with a proba­ble date in the Third Intermediate Period (TIP). It was found during excavations on the hill of Sheikh  ͑Abd  ͗el-Qurna, in the elite necropolis of the New Kingdom, in close proximity to the Temple of Hāt–shepsūt at Deir  ͗el-Bahri, across the Nile from Luxor, Egypt. Utilising macroscopic observation, the individu­al in question exhibits a flowing «melted wax» type ossification along the right anterolateral side of the ver­tebral column extending from the second through the eleventh thoracic vertebrae (T2-T11). Gross observation suggests open interver­tebral disc spaces with no sign of syndesmophytes. Such pathological changes ap­pear consistent with the ske­letal manifestations of DISH and rule out Ankylosing Spondylitis as a possible aetiology.

Guilhou, Nadine:

Les sarcophages de lézards de bronze d'Époque Tardive: État des Questions

A number of bronze boxes are known to have an embossed animal figurine on their lids. Poorly dated, because often out of archaeological context, they have been identified sometimes as amulets, as sarcophagi and/or as a votive offering. These artefacts have been recently the object of renewed interest. We will be particularly interested in those bearing the effigy of one, more rarely several, lizard(s) or gecko(s). The article will provide an update on the issue, as part of the establishment of a database. We shall try to explain the presence of such animals, related by some scholars with the god Atūm.

Piombino–Mascali, Dario; Jankauskas, Rimantas; Tarasenko, Mykola:

What's Hidden in the Sarcophagus? The First–Ever Lithuanian Mummy Exhibition (2021-2022)

Started in 2011, the Lithuanian Mummy Project was aimed at investigating the preserved human remains held in present–day Lithuania, which also included Egyptian mummies. Conceived as a follow–up of this Pro­ject, a recently opened Exhibition at the House of Histories of Vilnius tells the story of how these studies were con­ducted and what was discovered. As part of this effort to inform museum visitors more broadly about re­se­arch conducted on the legacy of ancient Egypt, the decision was made to review ancient Egyptian antiqui­ties held in Lithuania, relate the story of how these came to the country and also to revisit the origins of Egyp­tology in Lithuania.

Tarasenko, Mykola:

Egyptian mummies in Ukrainian museums: an Overview

The collections of ancient Egyptian artifacts in Museums of Ukraine include various types of objects. An inte­gral part of these collections are human and animal mummies, but they have never been studied or even re­viewed by Egyptologists or Anthropologists. In this short paper a short overview of these objects and their museological history is proposed.

Tsourinaki, Sophia:

Binding the «Loss»: A Reconsideration of the Woven–to–Shape Tapes at Fag ᾿el-Gamūs

The burials of Fag ᾽el-Gamūs in the Fayūm dessert have been characterised as an early Christian cemetery. Burial direction and minor textiles, such as built–up structures over the faces and woven–to–shape long tapes confirm to be indicative markers of Christianity. It is known that the fabrication of linen warp–faced shroud tapes (κειρίαι) has been a recognized occupation among the anachorētai–monks; however, warp–faced nar­row weaving in fine linen, for both practical and decorative function, has been practiced in Egypt since the Dynastic Period. A full description of the manufacturing technique, together with the weaving procedure and the possible use of the Roman rigid heddle as a weaving tool will be discussed. For the scope of this study, weaving experiments in the context of experimental Archaeology were reproduced by the author.

Sadek el-Gendi, Sherin:

Les coutumes funéraires chez les Coptes et leurs relations avec les anciennes pratiques de la momification

Once and even today, the religious and burial customs of the Copts differ from one social class to anot­her, even from cities to the countryside. In general, these diverse customs which are observed in food, drinks, clothes and inhumation; sometimes include certain survivals from the ancient Egyptian civilization with­out the actual population knowing it. We shall study details and methods of the interment, ceremonies, funerary processions and the immortalization of the memory of the defunct among the Copts, which vary according to the religious importance, age, sex, and the social class of the deceased, whether he belongs to the Priest­hood of the Coptic Church, or be one of the Coptic notables or a normal person of the Coptic community.

Györy, Hedvig; Szvák, Enikö ; Scheffer, Krisztina:

Thoughts about a Mummy Head in the HNM Semmelweis Museum, Budapest

The mummy head in the Collection of the HNM Semmelweis Museum of Medical History originates from the Fatīmid Period. The pharaonic type of funereal preparation for this head does not fit into the customary 11th Century methods. Thus, we are examining the possible reasons for mummification. This is the time when the outstanding Middle Eastern medicines were in need in the Western countries; and mummified ancient bodies were already used as medicament. We review the Arab sources for the use of early medieval mumiya, which was at that time a liquid remedy obtained from ancient mummies for external and internal use. The explana­tion in the Responsum of Maimonidēs also suggests the possibility that later generations used it as meat, which actually happened in the form of mummy powder. Based on our review, we considered its possible ar­tificial mummification, but did not find an unequivocal solution. Clarifying this issue requires further research.

Niwiński, Andrzej:

Book Review: Studies on the Vignettes from Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead

Book Review: Tarasenko, Mykola: Studies on the Vignettes from Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead: I. The Image of Mś.w Bdšt in Ancient Egyptian Mythology, Oxford (Archaeopress Egyptology 16) 2016, (152 + viii pages), ISBN 978–1–78491–450–9.

Maravelia, Alicia:

Book Review: Mummies and Death in Ancient Egypt

Book Review: Dunand, Françoise & Lichtenberg, Roger: Mummies and Death in Egypt, Ithaca–London (Cornell University Press) 2006, Foreworded by Jean Yoyotte, Translated from the French by David Lorton, 234 + xvi pages, ISBN 978–0–8014–4472–2.

Guilhou, Nadine:

Book Review: Mummies of the World

Book Review: Wieczorek, Alfried & Rosendahl, Wielfried (eds): Mummies of the World, Munich–Berlin–London–New York (Prestel) 2010, 384 pages, ISBN 978–3–7913–5030–1.   

Guilhou, Nadine:

Book Review: Ancient Lives New Discoveries

Book Review: Taylor, John H. & Antoine, Daniel: Ancient Lives New Discoveries: Eight Mum­mies, Eight Stories, London (The British Museum Press) 2014, 192 pages, ISBN 978–0–7141–1912–0.

Nelson, Andrew J.:

Book Review: Prepared for Eternity

Book Review: Loynes, Robert: Prepared for Eternity: A Study of Human Embalming Techniques in Ancient Egypt us­ing Computerised Tomography Scans of Mummies, Oxford (Archaeopress / Archaeopress Egyp­tology 9) 2015, 250 + xx pages, ISBN 978–1–78491–110–2.

Maravelia, Alicia:

Book Review: Scanning the Pharaohs

Book Review: Hawass, Zahi & Saleem, Sahar N.: Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies, Cairo (The American University in Cairo Press) 2016, Edited by Sue D’Auria, Foreworded by David O’Connor, 318 + xviii pages, ISBN 978–977–416–673–0.