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Off-Campus: What You Can Learn from Mummy

In this weekly feature, we will share our ideas for what you can do “off-campus” while the museum is closed. This week’s entry comes from Nicole M. Roylance, Coordinator of Public Education and Information.

I am distracted by the seemingly endless possibility for puns in a blog post about a mummy. What increases the opportunities for punning is the fact that our mummy, Shep-en-min, has been reunited with the mummy of his father at the Berkshire Museum. Mummy and Daddy. Can you stand it?

Here are the pun free facts: Our mummy, Shep-en-min, has been lent to the Berkshire Museum for their current exhibition, Wrapped: The Search for the Essential Mummy. Wrapped! explores the long-held fascination with Egyptian mummies as a source of inspiration as well as a significant shift in Western sensibilities toward these important artifacts.  Wrapped! also explores role of modern forensic analysis in Egyptian studies, presenting the work of specialists who use CT-scans to reconstruct the appearance of people from the ancient Egyptian community of Akhmim.

In 2008, Shep-en-min and his father, Pahat, underwent CT-scans as part of a research initiative from the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium. In a report from Jonathan Elias we learned where Shep-en-min is from, what he did for a living, how old he was when he died and how he died. Here are the incredible details from the report:

  • Shep-en-min is from Akhmim, located 290 miles sound of Cairo. Akhmim (classical Panopolis) is one of two cities on the east bank of the Nile intimately devoted to the worship of Min, a god of fecundity. This becomes important because…

    The mummy of Shep-en-min.
  • Translations of the text on Shep-en-min’s coffin reveal he was a stolist priest or “wardrober of Min”. In this role, Shep-en-min would have been involved the daily rituals of the god, Min and was likely attached to the central temple of Akhmim. So we know where Shep-en-min showed up for work every day.
  • What did he do when he got there? Most likely he would have been involved in the daily rituals of washing, dressing, and feeding the cult image inside the sacred naos of the temple.

    The CT-Scan image of Shep-en-min’s arm pose.
  • Further proof of his vocation comes from how Shep-en-min was embalmed. His arms are crossed his chest, which Elias states was a pose found frequently in mummies from the priestly community. It mimics the pose of the god, Osiris. Those who were under the age of twenty-five would have had their arms at their sides with their hands over their groins. This pose then also proves that Shep-en-min was over the age of twenty-five at this death.
  • His age can also be deduced by his dental records. All of his wisdom teeth had erupted which would have happened between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five. These would have been helpful for his diet of coarsely textured stone-ground breads.
  • Since there is minimal dental attrition and an absence of osteoarthritic changes or spinal curvatures, Elias estimates that Shep-en-min would have been a young adult between the ages of twenty-five and thirty when he died.
  • So now that we know what Shep-en-min did for a living and approximately how old he was when he died, how did he die?
That smarts.
  • Through the CT-Scan, one can clearly see that Shen-en-min had suffered a massive oblique fracture in his right femur. Egyptian medicine would have been unable to address the hemorrhage and shock associated with such an injury.
  • How did Shep-en-min suffer this fatal injury? Based on his knowledge of the time period, Elias proposes that it would be possible for Shep-en-min to have injured himself during a religious reenactment of the mythological struggles between priests or that the social tensions and civil disturbances of the time could have endangered Shep-en-min. Or it could have just been an accident.

Wrapped! promises to have more incredible revelations about mummies and ancient Egypt. The exhibition also includes ancient mummified cats, falcons, and a crocodile. This would be a great weekend day trip for the whole family, especially your mummy (insert groan).

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