Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The mummy of Hyderabad in deterioration, needs $20,000 for restoration

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug17: El Awady, director and head of the Research Department,
Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, has prepared a report on the present condition of the Egyptian mummy of a royal lady, lying at the State Museum in Hyderabad. The mummy was brought to Hyderabad about 80 years ago and has been lying since then at the State museum. The mummy is deteriorating and the Egyptian expert has come out with a number of suggestions on its restoration. It is estimated that $20,000 is required to bring back the mummy to its original status.

Here is the copy of the draft report he submitted to the State government of Andhra Pradesh:

Description of the mummy
It is 140 cm tall. Female mummy based on the result of an X-Ray examination which had been carried on the mummy few years ago (no report is available?!). The identification of the sex of the mummy is also based on the hieroglyphic text which is well preserved of the linen wrappings of the mummy. It is depicted on Cartonage and mentions the name of the young lady among prayers for her to enjoy a safe journey to the netherworld.

The age of the mummy is not certain; however it is believed that the owner of the mummy died very young, possibly age 16-18. This is also based on the results of the X-ray report, which is not available in the archive of the State museum of Hyderabad.

The mummy is to be dated to the Ptolemaic period and possibly 300-100 BC, it is also possible that the mummy can be dated to the beginning of the Greco Roman Period. Dating the mummy is in fact based on the style of Mummification and the style of writing and the decoration of the mummy.

The body is wrapped with layers of linen cloth and finally a strip of linen is wrapped around the whole body of the mummy with no geometrical design. The mummy wears a cartonage mask covers not only the face of the mummy but the head and the shoulders. The face of the mask was originally painted white with the features of the face lined with black paint; the lips still bears traces of the red paint.

The decoration on the top of the mummy’s head depicts a winged scarab pushing a sun disk; the scarab is surrounded by geometrical decorations repeated in circles. Around the face of the mummy a dark green paint is applied.

Under the face of the mummy and directly on the chest of the mummy a beautiful painted Wsekh (pectoral) is depicted. The Wsekh consists of ten layers of pedants and closes on each side with a big pendant shaped like the falcon god Horus with the sun disk above his head. The Wsekh is painted with deferent colors (dark green, red, yellow, blue, white and black).

Following the pectoral there is a geometrical decoration followed by a strip depicted scenes in three layers toped by the winged sun disk with two cobras on each side of the sun disk. The first scene depicts the sky goddess Nut as a lady in yellowish white long dress and a dark green wig. She is sitting looking left, with her two legs tucked under her. Her two arms stretched with two wings under and each hand is holding a Maat feather (symbol of truth, order and justice).

Under each wing of the goddess a figure of a mummy is laying on its back (under the protection of the goddess). The second scene is depicting a Jed pillar (symbol of Osiris) in the middle flanked by a female goddess (perhaps goddess Nut) on the left side and a ram on the right side. The scene in fact is representing the erection of the Jed Pillar which symbolizes the resurrection of god Osirus – god of the netherworld.

The third and the last scene depicts the mummy laying on a funerary bed shaped like a lion, under the bed the four canopic jars are depicted with the four heads of the sons of Horus. On each side of the bed two of the four sons of Hours are depicted giving linen to be used in the mummification. The three scenes are depicted on a white background and separated from each other by a strip of geometrical decoration.

The scenes are followed by an inscription consists of four vertical columns the two columns in the middle are painted red, while the two side columns are painted dark green. The inscription reads from left to right, up to down. It reads:
“Spoken words by my souls…………..and end with may she live in the netherworld for ever and everlasting”

Preservation state of the Cartonage

The mask is in fragmentary state of preservation, the left side of the mask is completely damaged and quite large pieces seemed to be missing, the top of the mask covering the head has some damages both in the cartonage itself (holes exist on different places) and in the colors of the scenes depicted. The lower part of the cartonage mask under the head of the mummy is completely smashed and lost its round shape.

Suggestions: the mask appears to be almost separated from the mummy and taken into consideration how difficult is to restore the mask in situ, I suggest taking the mask of the head of the mummy, restored and put it back. This operation definitely will lead at the beginning to more damage of the mask but the work of restoration will safe the mask.

Between the cartonage mask and the pectoral there are two pieces of cartonage should be restored together to the mask and the pectoral in order to complete the original shape. One of these two pieces still can be seen on the right shoulder of the mummy but not in its original place. The other piece cannot be seen however there are some fallen pieces from the mummy can be seen upside down around the mummy and hopefully one of these fragments will fit into the missing part of the cartonage mask. On the left side of the cartonage mask one can easily see the serious damage which lead to a complete separation between the mask and the mummy itself.

The pectoral is in fact in a well state of preservation; only a vertical crack in the middle of the pectoral divided it into two equal parts. This can be easily fixed and consolidate the pectoral from the back. The shape and the colors are still intact.

The geometrical design under the pectoral is not complete and small pieces are missing. A consolidation work is needed. The scenes and the inscription are still in good condition, only a horizontal crack appeared on the upper part of the inscription which can be easily fixed and reconnected again. Also a work of reinforcement and consolidation needs to be done on the back of the cartonage.

In summation, it is essential to take the cartonage mask and chest plate off the mummy in order to restore it and consolidating it and then put is back on the mummy. The colors are still in good state of preservation; Damages occurred on the cartonage and the chest plate and caused many broken parts and cracks in the mask and the chest plate of the mummy.

Two reasons are suggested that led to this condition of preservation:
First: the deterioration which occurred to the mummy itself and effected the position of the mummy’s body and caused many movement of the limbs which put pressure on the cartonage mask and chest plate and causes many damages and displace of mask on the face of the mummy.

Second: according to my colleagues at the State Museum in Hyderabad, the mummy was a subject of many movements and it was transferred many times to be exhibit in different places. Moving was handled by workers and no safety precautions were taken. The Old Photographs which we got till now give an evidence that some of the damages hap been occurred long tome ago (Old photographs we have are dated to 1969 according to our colleagues at the SM).

Preservation state of the Linen wrappers

The white color of the linen wrappings turned yellowish. The outer layer of the wrappings is badly damaged; the outer strips of linen are unfolded with many cuts in the strips. Under the cartonage mask, one can see the chin of the skull completely bare. The wrappings around the feet toes are open revealing the mummy toes.

Suggestions: after removing the cartonage and the mask of the mummy a careful cleaning and consolidating the linen wrappings should be carried out. The area around the toes can be left like it is now after cleaning and examine if there is any bacteria lives or not.

Preservation state of the mummy

Unfortunately, there is no documentations work available on the mummy since it was given to the SM in 1930. Even archival photographs does not exist as far as we know until now (searching for this material is continuing). The absence of this material stops any attempts to trace the history of deterioration of the mummy.

We cannot know for example if this deterioration happened long time ago and now stopped or still going on and also the speed of this deterioration cannot be traced. Therefore, one has deal with the state of preservation of the mummy as it appears now on the mummy. The condition around the mummy is not pleasant at all, humidity changes always up and down according to the weather and the number of visitor inside the mummy room which is relatively small and opened to the hall through a glass door with four leafs.

Also the temperature drops during the night hours and raise during the day. Only one fan is working inside the mummy room and not all the time just when there is people inside the room. The mummy is displayed inside a showcase of wood and glass opens from above.

According to our colleagues at the SM, they open the mummy showcase every two or three month in order to change the conservation materials inside the show case, which is also not oxygen free and allow air inside. The mummy is placed on its back on dark blue base which absorbs the heat and moisture and reflected on the back of the mummy which shows the serious signs of deterioration and the difference between the colors of the bottom part of the wrappings is darker than the upper part of the mummy.

A Ct-scan is needed in order to see the mummy from inside and the type of mummification carried on the mummy and also to show how far the mummy still preserved under the wrappings. Microbiological analysis is also needed.
Suggestions: it is essential to change the environment around the mummy in order to reach an appropriate state of stability and preservation. To do so, a free of oxygen showcase is needed.

And the room where the mummy is being display should be climate controlled all the time. The mummy should not be exhibit under direct light, also camera flash should not be allowed in the mummy room. A monitoring system should be installed inside the showcase of the mummy and in the mummy room itself.

A free Oxygen environment will definitely stops any further deterioration either Biological, physics, and chemical deterioration.

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