Mummies, Egyptian Woman, & Modern Science
The city of Richmond is being filled with mummies! The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts exhibit from the British Museum is wrapping up.
Now, the University of Richmond Museums presents Ti-Ameny-Net: An Ancient Mummy, An Egyptian Woman, and Modern Science in the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature.
The exhibition celebrates the life of Ti-Ameny-Net, a woman who lived in Egypt in the 7th century BCE. The exhibition includes a display wall that tracks how the University of Richmond acquired the mummy, which was donated in 1876. The exhibition also features the mummy of Ti-Ameny-Net, her elaborately decorated wooden coffin, and a selection of Egyptian artifacts from the collections of the Stuart L. Wheeler Gallery of the Ancient World and the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature at the University of Richmond.
Additional information is based upon modern scientific studies of the mummy conducted by University of Richmond undergraduate Caroline Cobert, a biology and classical civilization double major. She used various grants to complete her research. The results of the studies are presented in the exhibition, along with some of the tools used in the scientific analyses and the three-dimensional CT (computerized tomography) images from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. The recent x-rays of the mummy are pared with those from 1970 to illustrate the contributions of modern medicine.
It is now understood that Ti-Ameny-Net was buried on the west coast of the Nile, near the Valley of the Kings and probably lived in Thebes. In 1869, her mummy was one of 30 excavated at Thebes as entertainment for the Prince of Wales. The Prince gave Ti-Ameny-Net’s body and coffin to his American translator. The translator then sold the mummy to Dr. Jabez L. M. Curry who was a Professor of English and Richmond College Trustee.
Ti-Ameny-net was then exhibited at the Philadelphia World’s Fair of 1876 and later donated to the Richmond College Museum. She arrived in Richmond to great fanfare and was displayed first in the Richmond College Museum, then in Jeter Memorial Hall Library. She finally came to rest in the Ancient World Gallery of the Department of Classical Studies, founded by Stuart L. Wheeler in 1979.
In 2009, Caroline Cobert undertook a scientific study of Ti-Ameny-Net. Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center agreed to provide new CT-scans and x-rays and to extract a DNA sample under the guidance of Dr. Ann Fulcher, Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiology, VCU Medical Center. At the University of Richmond biology labs, Cobert tested for various genes to prove that the sample was genuinely Ti-Ameny-Net’s, then tested for traces of the pathogens that cause malaria and tuberculosis. The CT-scans and x-rays were analyzed for evidence of Ti-Ameny-Net’s health, including any trauma, chronic illness, or any clues as to what might have ended her life.
These studies reveal that she was around 30 years old when she died and that she suffered from degenerative scoliosis. She had a good diet and no sign of tuberculosis or malaria, but very worn teeth, a common problem in ancient Egypt from sandy food. The overall good condition of her bones indicates that she was a member of the elite class, a conclusion supported by the evident care with which she was mummified and by the decoration of her coffin. Ongoing analysis aims to determine a cause of death.
Before these scientific studies, the bulk of information about Ti-Ameny-Net’s life came from her painted wooden coffin, covered in hieroglyphic writing and religious imagery. One part of the hieroglyphic text provides the names of her parents, Nesy-Amun and Ruru or Lulu, and addresses Ti-Ameny-Net as “mistress of the house,” a common title for high-ranking women in ancient Egypt.
Selections from the collections of the University of Richmond’s Stuart L. Wheeler Gallery of the Ancient World and the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature highlight the complex and pervasive nature of Egyptian funerary beliefs, which Ti-Ameny-Net herself likely held. An alabaster canopic jar would have been used to store the embalmed organs of the deceased. Small faience shabti figures were symbolic representations of the servants the deceased would have needed in the afterlife.
The exhibition highlights the role modern science has on understanding our past. It also uses advanced forensic technologies (think CSI) to uncover new information about Ti-Ameny-Net. The exhibition is on view until June 29, 2012,
Jon Henry comes from the small town of Washington, Virginia. Xe finished xes degree at the University of Richmond and was named GayRVA.com's Out.Spoken. Richmonder of the Year for 2011. When not in class, xe is either in the studio or rabble rousing with other queer activists. Follow xem on Twitter.
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