Do scientists have a sense of what condition the corpse is in inside this? Or are just bones remaining?
This mummy, like all the ones you see in our gallery, has been CT scanned, so we have a pretty good idea of the condition of the body. The curators describe the mummification itself as "middle of the road."
Basically, the whole body (bones, skin, muscle) is still inside, just completely dried out. Thothirdes's organs were removed a mummified separately as was customary. They were then returned to his body instead of being placed in canopic jars which would have been more expensive.
Me podrías dar información de esta momia?
¡Claro! Esta momia se llama Thothirdes. Fue un sacerdote! Este estilo de momificación es típico del periodo tarde, pero aun tradicional. Su momificación es de calidad promedio.
Can you tell me more about this mummy?
This mummy is a man named Thothirdes who was a priest during his life time. His mummification was pretty average as the curators have determined from CT scans.
The ancient Egyptians wrote about red linen straps being included in mummy wrapping. There are references in the pyramids. Interestingly, Thothirdes himself lived thousands of years after the pyramids were built.
Are there any real mummies/bodies here?
There are! There are four mummies currently on view and they are all in the Mummy Chamber section at one end of the Egyptian galleries on the third floor.
The mummies of Thothirdes and an anonymous man are laying down in cases, and the decorated cartonnages of Gautseshenu and Hor also contain their mummies.
This sign indicates that they used to not be displayed, why is that? Were there ethical considerations?
The museum certainly does make ethical considerations when displaying human remains, you may have noticed that this space is quite dark and contemplative. Some mummies are always kept in storage for conservation reasons. This sign refers to a previous approach to the installation of the Egyptian galleries, I believe before 2003. There was a period when many mummies in many institutions were removed from the galleries in an effort to be more respectful. More recently, we, and other institutions, have begun to return them to the galleries in new and (hopefully) more ethical contexts.
Ahhh understood, thanks.
How did the Brooklyn museum acquire these mummies?
Three of the mummies in the gallery, Thothirdes, Hor, and Gautseshenu, we acquired from the New York Historical Society with their entire collection of ancient Egyptian art.
The anonymous man we acquired from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who sponsored the excavation that found the mummy in 1929.
Thanks again for all the great answers today.
How did the Egyptian view of the afterlife compare to contemporary beliefs such as those of the Greeks and Hebrews? How did the Egyptian view of the after life evolve over time and how is this reflected in their art?
It is important to remember that the Egyptian religion was established thousands of years before Classical Greece really emerged. The Greeks and the Egyptians did share a belief that after death, the soul went on a journey to reach an afterlife location. The similarities end about there.
I am not as familiar with the Hebrew beliefs about death, but I do know that the Jewish tradition does include a belief that there is a place called Sheol that the souls of the deceased inhabit.
Over the 4000 year history of ancient Egypt their beliefs about funerary practices and the details of the journey to the afterlife evolved a number of times. You can see this in the methods of mummification, tomb decoration and equipment, and varying emphasis on different gods.
The largest changes to Egyptian beliefs began during the Roman period as Egypt became even more cosmopolitan and then, of course, the most dramatic changes occurred as interest in Christianity and later Islam swept the nation. Art production in the style of ancient Egypt fell out of popularity and eventually ended entirely.
Which era/dynasty did mummification start?
The process of mummification began in the Early dynastic period (as early as 4400 BCE) once mud-brick and stone tombs came into fashion.
Before that, the deceased were simply buried in the sand. Many bodies would naturally mummify and it is believed that this is how the concept of preservation was discovered.
Which class of people was mummification mostly reserved for?
Through much of ancient Egyptian history, it's not that mummification was fundamentally reserved for a particular class of people, but access was dictated by wealth. A middle class person might save up for a low grade mummification. Poorer people were simply buried in the sand. The mummies you see in a museum like this often reflect the upper echelons of society.
Wow that's great thanks.
I’m Olivia and I’m 9 years old. What's this?
Hi Olivia! This is a human mummy. His name is Thothirdes. He was a priest during his lifetime.
Something special about this mummy are the red linen bands that criss-cross his chest.
Would you know which cranial bone was cracked to drain the brain during the mummification process?
I am not an expert in anatomy, so I do not know the scientific name of the particular bone, but I can tell you that the brain was removed through the nose by means of a hook that was inserted into the nostril and used to break into the brain cavity.
What does it mean that the mummification was "average”?
Basically, that it would have cost somewhere in the middle price-range of mummifications. A cheaper mummification might not have held together as well. One of the main differences between this and a more expensive mummification is that Thothirdes does not have separate canopic jars for his internal organs.
His organs were removed from his abdomen and mummified separately; that's the best way to ensure that the body dries properly, an essential step in preservation. However, his organs were placed back inside his body after they were dried and everything was wrapped up together.
And would you be able to tell me more about natron?
Natron is a naturally occurring mineral very common in the geology of Egypt that is made up of multiple sodium-based compounds. The longest, and scientifically most important, part of the ancient Egyptian mummification process was to pack the body in this salt-like substance in order to draw out all moisture. The modern word, natron, comes from Wadi Natrun where the ancient Egyptians mined the mineral. The chemical symbol for sodium, Na, also has the same root.