Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wrapped Mummy with Cartonnage Trappings

Late Ptolemaic Period, ca. 167-30 B.C. Human remains, linen, cartonnage, paint, gilt. Funded by John A. Manget, 1921.6

In order to enter the afterlife, it was important that the deceased have a proper burial with all the correct rituals and traditional funerary equipment. First, the body had to be preserved through mummification, a process by which it was artificially dehydrated and then wrapped in linen bandages. The invention of mummification may have resulted from the practice of burying bodies directly in the ground during the Predynastic Period. The preservative properties of the hot, desiccating sand may have suggested to the Egyptians that survival of the body was necessary for continued existence in the afterlife. Later, in the Early Dynastic Period, when the body was no longer directly surrounded by sand, but was placed in a specially constructed burial chamber, the natural processes of decay set in. When they observed this effect, the Egyptians developed a method for keeping the body intact using resins and natron, a naturally occurring salt.
The mummy here has been shown through x-rays and CAT scans to be that of a middle-aged man. His name is not known. The body, wrapped in bandages with arms at the sides, is enveloped in a linen shroud. Trappings of painted and gilded cartonnage, a material consisting of layers of linen stiffened with plaster, have been placed over the shroud. A mask with a gilded face, identifying the deceased with the sun god, covers the head. Across the chest lies a panel in the form of a broad collar. Below the collar, another panel depicts a winged scarab beetle and a kneeling figure of the sky goddess, Nut, with outstretched wings. The hieroglyphic sign for "sky" is painted in blue above the head of the goddess. A third panel, covering the legs, contains a scene showing the mummy on a lion-shaped bed, mourned by the sister-goddesses Isis and Nephthys. The lower portion of the third panel consists of a series of mummiform figures representing the different forms of the sun god in the underworld. Figures of the jackal god Anubis atop a shrine appear on the foot covering. The toes are depicted in the form of rearing cobras crowned with sun disks which represent the toenails.