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Egyptian Revival in Atlanta Volume 54 Number 1, January/February 2001
by Mark Rose

[image] Possible mummy of Ramesses I (Courtesy Heidi Hoffman) [LARGER IMAGE] [LARGER IMAGE] [image]

Coffins, mummies, and tomb furnishings from an important, though long neglected, Egyptian collection are now undergoing study and conservation at Emory University's Michael C. Carlos Museum in Atlanta. The material, much of it purchased at Thebes in 1861, had been displayed in the Niagara Falls Museum in Canada. When that institution closed, the collection was acquired by the Carlos Museum, where it has been since 1999. The collection includes the coffin of Lady Tahat, a chantress in the temple of Amun, and a set of nested coffins for Tasheret, a lady-in-waiting to Nubian princesses, and, most intriguing, a still-wrapped male whose arms are crossed over his chest in a manner reserved for royal mummies.

According to curator Peter Lacovara, the male mummy was bought at about the same time a cache of royal mummies was found at Deir el-Bahri. Carbon dating places it in the New Kingdom, the era of Ramesses I (1293-1291 B.C.), and a profile generated from CT scans closely resembles the pharaoh's son and grandson, Seti I and Ramesses II. Lacovara hopes that Emory molecular biologist Douglas Wallace will be able to compare the mummy's DNA with that from Seti I in Cairo. If it is Ramesses I, discussions would begin with Egyptian authorities for its eventual return to Egypt.

Scanning of the mummy was part of a project, directed by Emory University Hospital radiologist Heidi Hoffman, combining CT technology and virtual-reality software to create superb images of the still-wrapped bodies and "fly-through" views within them. In addition, the scanning revealed that the individual who might be Ramesses I may have died because of a severe ear infection.

Many of the objects had suffered from the Canadian climate over the century they were displayed. Conservators are now assessing and treating the mummies and the wood, mud, and gesso layers of the coffins and mending and cleaning the linen mummy wrappings. After completion of this work, the collection will go on permanent exhibition in the fall of 2001.

© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America