A clay shell that surrounds a mummy is the rare mortuary treatment identified in a egyptian mummy, of which it has also been discovered that the body is prior to the coffin, suggesting that it was placed there by 19th century merchants to sell as a complete set.
A study published today Plos One gives an account of a new analysis with modern techniques of a mummified individual from the 20th dynasty of Egypt .
Even though this treatment of the painted clay shell had not been previously documented in the literature, the authors note that its frequency cannot yet be determined and suggest that further radiological studies on other non-royal mummies could reveal more about this practice.
The mummy deposited in the Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney She had already undergone a full computed tomography (CT) scan in 1999, but the authors, led by Karin Sowada of Sydney’s Macquarie University, repeated it with updated technology.
An Egyptian mummy with a rare mortuary treatment, a clay shell. Mummified individual and coffin in the Nicholson Collection of the Chau Chak Wing Museum, University of Sydney. Dpa photo
The new data on the dentition and the skeleton determined that it was a young average adult (26-35 years) and the bony secondary sexual characteristics (bones of the hip, jaw and skull) “clearly suggests” that it was a woman, explains University.
The analyzes also revealed the extent and nature of the mud shell, which completely envelops the body and is layered within linen wrappers.
Studies of mummified bodies from the late New Kingdom to the 21st Dynasty (1294-945 BC) have occasionally reported the existence of a hard resinous shell that protected the body within its envelope, especially in the case of the royal mummies of the time.
However, a mud shell that encloses the body of a mummified woman inside the textile wrappings “It is a new addition to our understanding of ancient Egyptian mummification,” according to those responsible for the research.
The images revealed that the body was damaged relatively soon after the initial mummification, and that the clay shell and additional wrappings were applied to reunify and restore the body.
In addition to its practical purpose of restoration, the authors believe that the shell “gave those who cared for the deceased the possibility of emulate the funeral practices of the elite of coating the body with an expensive imported resin shell with cheaper materials available locally. “
But the study also brought to light another detail, and that is that the dating of the mummy and the sarcophagus that contains it do not match.
Both were bought as a set by the Egyptologist and one of the founders of the University of Sydney, Sir Charles Nicholson, during a trip to Egypt in 1856 and donated it to the educational center.
The inscription on the sarcophagus identifies the owner as a titled woman named Meruah, and the iconography dates her approximately in 1000 BC.
However, current analysis of the mummification technique and radiocarbon dating of the textile samples of the linen wrappings place the mummified body at the end of the New Kingdom (1200-1113 BC).
This means that the body is older than the coffin, suggesting, according to the authors, that “local merchants in the 19th century placed an unrelated body in the coffin to sell as a complete set.”